I shared a quick overview of the Enneagram in an earlier blog post and am coming back now to share Part 2. If this is something that intrigues you, like with anything on my Blog, I encourage you to take a few of the ideas or thoughts I share and use as a catalyst to go learn more! There is a whole field of “all things Enneagram” – books, podcasts, coaches, authors, experts, and more! For today, I wanted to share how I have been using the Enneagram as a tool for self-reflection and growth.
First things first. I am a three. A “competitive achiever” as they are sometimes called. My number is not surprising to me- I literally was just chatting with my counselor about my innate desire to accomplish things but my struggle to just “sit in the goodness” before moving onto something new. (There is a reason my word for the year is contentment.) I love to achieve- I got into triathlons a while back and wasn’t quite satisfied with the Olympic distance. I needed to do a Half Ironman (or two) and raise money for a good cause while I was at it. A few years ago, I was sort of in a bored state at work so decided to go after a big Human Resources certification. I studied a ton and worked really hard to pass what I thought was a pretty hard test. I didn’t need it for anything per se, just felt like something good to accomplish. There are thousands of these stories in my repertoire- this deep drive to set a goal and reach it. My “threeness” also comes through in how hard it is for me to just sit and be still- I love productivity, almost to a fault. A to-do list, a list for the list, doing something on my computer as I am “watching” a show- rest does not come naturally for me. I think for most people, when they discover the Enneagram and their number, there are pieces of it that feel right, a “oh of course, that totally describes me.” When I saw my top five descriptors were ambitious, efficient, adaptable, driven, and results-oriented, there were no lightbulbs going off in my head! I think, though, it is in the nuance and the next level of understanding where the tool can be quite useful.
Here are a few of the statements that are in my personal report (not all 3’s are created equally of course):
- You prefer to set emotions aside to focus on effectiveness, and seldom make time for reflection or talk about feelings, especially feelings like anxiety, sadness or fear. Your feelings focus on how other people react to you.
- Projecting confidence is very important to you and you may mask feelings that may detract from this image. Your optimism is shown outwardly but inside you may feel more fear or distrust that your behavior reveals.
- Your mental energy is likely to be focused on deliverables, your goals and what it takes to achieve them. You may overidentify with your work to the point where it defines you.
- You are likely to spend a lot of time mentally comparing yourself to others, leading to feelings of relative deficiency or superiority.
So as not to bore you if you aren’t also a three, I will stop the list there. Even with these four, I have been doing so much inner work that I think, slowly but surely, is making a difference. Let me share a few examples.
This stuffing of feelings thing is SO real. I come from a family that doesn’t “go there”- best to just keep the peace. I get so uncomfortable when professional development sessions get too “touch-feely” as I call it. I don’t do feelings. Well let me be clear, I have BIG feelings and certainly express them when it comes to injustices in the world. But my OWN feelings related to my OWN experiences, why bother?! I learned that THREEs actually feel the most of all the numbers but that they immediately move the feels to their head so they can think their way out of them. They don’t actually allow themselves to feel anything for too long. So the last year or so, I am really trying to sit with things. If someone says something that hurts my feelings, it is okay to just be with that for a few minutes and not tell myself to “get over it.” It is okay to rest when I am exhausted or overwhelmed. I am also trying to listen to my body and feel what is going on inside. This is still really hard for me but I am trying to get better at it as I know that in the long run, it will be better for my physical and mental health. Something else cool- I told my husband a few weeks ago that one of the things that will be true for our kids is that they see us feeling and also talking about feelings and also disagreeing!! I can’t change anything from the past, but I can ensure to parent more intentionally because of what I am learning.
Another big a-ha I have had and been working on is this piece about image. Every number has a vice and the vice of a three is this: “Deceit and vanity expressed in tricking yourself and others into believing you are your self-made image.” OUCH. I had never really thought about myself as someone who was image conscious but the enneagram has made me realize I actually am- and how this can play out in less than ideal ways. I can fit in with a lot of groups- when I am with people I know don’t believe in God, I can easily dial down my love for Jesus. Around my conservative friends, I am not quite as outspoken as I am when I am with my more progressive friends. I don’t think any one person would say that they don’t where I stand on an issue, but I certainly have gotten good at projecting the pieces of me that I want to be more pronounced in a given moment. I don’t like that about myself and have been focusing a lot on what authenticity really means to me, regardless of the group that I am with or around.
I could go on for days about my learning and growth because of the enneagram. I am definitely a work in progress, but I think the more we know about ourselves, the better we can show up in the world- for our partners, friends, kids, neighbors, and the stranger we will encounter at the gas station later.
I may have written a book during a global pandemic (goals, people) but I have also stopped to rest and enjoy the little things, marveling at the beauty of God’s creation in a flowering tree or a random Tuesday night sunset. I am most definitely a three but a healthy three feels and looks really different from an unhealthy one. My current mantra- your work does not define you. Your value does not lie in what you accomplish today. Comparing yourself and your success to strangers on the internet is not helpful.
May you, too, reframe what needs to be reframed in order to be the healthiest version of yourself.
(Image Credit: Aimee Nana @aimtodesign_)