Inside: You are more than a number. Exploring the Enneagram helps you meet and befriend your true self, to witness your strength and struggle shame and judgment free, and begin walking in greater self-compassion and freedom. It’s a life-changer for many people, including myself. This post may include referral links.
Learning about The Enneagram in my early 40s was a game-changer for me.
For years I happily dove into varied personality assessments and expanded my understanding of self in helpful ways. All models are “useful but wrong” or can only offer “partial truth” but layer upon layer, they offer helpful information about why we experience life in the unique ways that we do.
But apart from learning in my 30s that I’m a Highly Sensitive Human (which also changed my life), no other self-awareness tool positively impacted my growth and healing, shone a light on my areas of strength and struggle, greatly improved my relationships, or otherwise helped me put down roots of self-awareness and self-compassion like my exploration of the Enneagram and my Enneatype.
Personality and True Self are not the same thing. Personality is the identity we’ve created for ourself or who we want to be; it is the persona that tells others who we are. Personality is a reflection of the ways that we’ve learned to gain approval or love, to feel safe, or otherwise get our needs met. Personality reveals the box we live in but this doesn’t mean we have to stay here. Learn more.Krista xo
you are not your personality and you’Re more than a number
Riso and Hudson write that the Enneagram is a “modern amalgam, from a number of ancient wisdom traditions combined with modern psychology.” It is principally understood and taught as a typology of 27-character archetypes or “false selves” with plenty of complexity and nuance.
The first step in exploring the Enneagram is to identify your ‘number’ or type. Some people are concerned that the Enneagram puts us into a box. If you stop at simply figuring out your number or Enneatype, as many do, you will mistakenly believe that this is the full truth of who you are. It can become just one more box.
But if you keep exploring, the Enneagram will help you identify the box you’re already in so that you can climb out and then consciously choose your path forward.
So first, it helps you come face to face with your personality or how you learned to navigate the world and get your needs met. Then over time, as you go deeper into all of the nuance, the Enneagram can support you in meeting and befriending your true self underneath all the layers of self-protection and shadow, your efforts at finding belonging in this messy world, and beneath the masks you wear (unconscious or not).
The positive impact on your life can come quickly, but it takes time and practice to fully glean all the wisdom and practical application that this model can offer.
The enneagram offers us a growth path
As mentioned, the Enneagram is a fairly complex model.
Landing on a number, or typing yourself, doesn’t make you identical to other people with your number/type.
I appreciate Michael Shahan’s “shades of a color” example: “We have the color red, but we also have scarlet, crimson, burgundy, auburn, and maroon. They all fit into the red family, but they’re very different from one another. This same concept can apply to your Enneagram number.”
Here are just four variations on how each type experiences life and shows up in the world:
- Every type has ‘wings’, the numbers on either side of it. The wings influence behaviour and lived experience. In any given season, we might lean a little more toward one wing but we always have access to both. This means we have access to the strengths and wisdom of both, and also that we might struggle with certain characteristics of both.
- Every type pulls from two other points on the model (sometimes referred to as stretch and release points, other times referred to as stress and growth points) and these numbers play a huge role in how we experience life. They also provide important clues about our True Self and places of core wounding. Different teachers approach these points differently. Understanding the influence of these points on my life has been the most healing and freeing part of exploring the Enneagram for me.
- Each type has subtypes (sometimes called Instincts) that influence how they show up in the world.
- And each type (each human) moves up and down a ‘ladder of health or integration’. Our current level of health/wellbeing has a huge impact on how we show up to life. This ‘ladder’ can serve as a growth path and help us become more aware of our old patterns so that we can love ourselves well mind-emotion-body-soul and keep maturing and growing.
All models are wrong, but some are useful.George Box, Statistician
THE ENNEGRAM wakes us up to our deepest motivations so we can then choose who and how we want to be
The Enneagram can feel confronting at first. Richard Rohr says, “If you don’t sense the whole thing as somehow humiliating, you haven’t yet found your number.” It can feel like seeing the truth of oneself laid bare, maybe for the first time, and it feels vulnerable and raw (yet also can feel incredibly freeing and affirming).
While the journey can be uncomfortable at times, the intention is not to simply point out our flaws and failings. Instead, it invites us into truth-telling and deep growth work and helps us release judgement, witness our strength and gifting, and better equip us to show up fully to life with joy and on purpose in every season.
The Enneagram describes motivation not behaviour. Understanding our WHY or the roots of our behaviour including our core fears and desires is where things get interesting. The more we learn about our own type/ways of showing up in the world (and why), the reactive we become, and the more we are able to CHOOSE our response to circumstances, rather than reacting from our old stories and patterns.
It’s fun if family and friends want to explore this with us, but even if they don’t, as we begin to see differently, the ways in which we show up to our relationships shifts. I Invited my kids to identify their own type when they were old enough, and this has been incredibly helpful in understanding them better, and figuring out how to relate to them in a way that helped them feel seen and heard. Though my husband isn’t interested in any type of personality typing/this type of exploration, and although we’re not supposed to type another person, I could easily see his patterns at play, and was able to deepen my understanding of his motivations and needs. This, in turn, led to tremendous benefits to our marriage.
explorE the enneagram with these resources
- The Wisdom of The Enneagram
- The Road Back to You
- The test I recommend
- The Art of Growth Podcast
- Typology Podcast
- The Enneagram Institute
- Enneagram for Therapists
- Join the Brave + Beautiful Membership Community
Life continually invites us into new growth and the Enneagram can come along for the ride. From the day I began exploring, it has never stopped being useful. I don’t say this lightly: the Enneagram is definitely one of my top 7 tools/resources that I recommend for folks interested in reclaiming freedom, health, and joy.
Originally published July 3, 2021
Sometimes we just need to see a new joyful or hopeful possibility. Use the assessment to identify your current level of friendship with yourself then map a soul-honouring path forward.
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