How the Enneagram Helped Me Understand Myself

How I used the Enneagram to Understand Myself - Fresh New Routine

How to Use the Enneagram to Understand Myself - Fresh New Routine

I dunno about you, but I’ve always had a slight fascination with personality tests. Which makes next to no sense if you take my zodiac sign into account. Geminis don’t like being put in a box. But that’s the thing..I would love to be in a box if it meant understanding what to do with all of the conflicting thoughts in my head (they mean it when they call us the twins). No personality test ever felt like me. For Myers Briggs I’m an ambivert so I sit between two different personalities. For the color test, I scored 50% of two different colors. While sometimes I pride myself on my individuality, it’s times like this when I’ve never felt more lost. I crave the help of some test to tell me who I am and what I’m doing wrong. Enter the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator.

What is the Enneagram?

Stemming from the Greek words ennea (nine) and grammos (a written symbol), the Enneagram is a system that outlines 9 distinct strategies for relating to ourselves and the world around us. It’s the lens through which we view the world and the strategies we used as children to survive. Amazingly, these 9 types transcend gender, religion, nationality and culture. We all pull from the same pool of strategies for surviving and exploring the world around us.

Enneagram diagram

Found on the right, the Enneagram diagram illustrates pathways each personality type tends to follow during shifts of awareness and behavior. The types flanking each personality are called “wings.” People often lean one way or another, adopting elements of those types in their personality. The lines pointing away from each personality illustrate the paths we follow during times of stress and security. This system leaves a lot of room for variety amongst the 9 types. It feels less like a box and more like an instruction manual for how we analyze and interact with the world. Who doesn’t want helpful instructions to navigate this journey we call life?

Taking the Test & Analyzing your Results

Peaked your interest? Then you should take the test! You have a few options, the best being the official Enneagram Institute test (this is the one I took). However this test costs $12. It’s not a crazy amount of money and it’s worth it for the lengthy document of analysis you get afterwards. But I understand if that’s too much for a personality test you might not buy into yet. So another way to find your results is to check out any number of the free versions of the test. My favorite is the Eclectic Energies test. Their analysis isn’t very in-depth but you can go back to the Enneagram Institute to read about your results. Once you have your type, you learn about your underlying motivations and the paths you follow when you feel stressed and secure.

For example, personality Type 6, The Loyalist, is motivated by fear. They have a strong desire to feel secure and this manifests itself in anxiety and distrust of the world around them. It also manifests itself in a steadfast appreciation for rules, order and values that govern our society. But there’s a reason they’re known as the Loyalists; they hold tight to relationships and people who are important to them. In stress, Sixes move towards the negative side of Threes; becoming workaholics who pursue success or material possessions to make themselves feel more secure. They give off a facade of being put together to compensate for the inner anxieties that rule their mind. This causes them to miss out on opportunities because they’re too scared to take any risks. In security, Sixes move towards the positive side of Nines, where they finally relax and stop stressing about the potential threats in their environment. They become less anxious and allow room for more light heartedness, empathy and flexibility. Feeling secure, they begin to trust their own gut rather than relying on authority figures or belief systems to make decisions for them.

This style of analysis is reflected in all of the nine personality types, helping give you an overview of your inner motivations and behavior when you’re stressed or secure. With an understanding of the positive and negative sides of your type, it’s hard not to analyze your behavior and make the necessary adjustments to move towards the healthiest version of yourself.

How to Use Your Results to Become Your Best Self

Often times I think being our “best selves” seems like an unattainable ideal we spend our whole lives chasing. But with your enneagram results, you can better understand your behavior patterns and where to focus your energy to help grow as a person. The best way I can think to illustrate this is with my own results. My results came back as a Type Seven, The Enthusiast. Most personality tests come back with something resembling this, however I’m often described as the bold, social personality that’s the life of the party and often, that doesn’t feel like me. What so ever.

But the enneagram puts it on a different scale. Yes I’m energetic and social, but most of that stems from my optimism and spontaneous personality. You should see inside my brain, I have so many ideas and thoughts flying around and keeping me busy. This is amazing for me as a designer, as I have no shortage of ideas and projects to work on. However, Sevens have a tendency to never get anything done (something I didn’t need this test to tell me about myself haha). One insight that helped immensely was that when I’m stressed I act like an unhealthy One, nitpicking my ideas and paying too much attention to details. This has been life changing for me.

When I once prided myself on my meticulousness, I now know it’s how I avoid doing anything in case I mess up and disappoint myself . You see, Sevens run from uncomfortable, painful situations. So I no longer use perfectionism as a crutch and instead let ideas flow out of me and into the world before I can halt all progress with critical analysis. This should help me finally get something done for once (fingers crossed). My personalized results from the Enneagram Institute also provided me with “Growth Recommendations.” These are essentially a checklist of behaviors to look out for and adjust in order to feel more fulfilled and at peace with myself. I’ve already begun implementing some of these strategies and I’m excited to see how I can keep growing as a person.

The Enneagram Fosters Compassion for Others

Another element of the Enneagram that I adore is the inherent understanding of other people’s struggles I now possess. For Christmas, I received the book The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. That next day I sat down and read the book from cover to cover, immersing myself in the charming stories and valuable information about each personality type. I’ve come to the conclusion that you cannot understand the different types and not develop some compassion for the struggles of other people.

On the outside, Threes are the charming social types who know how to work a room and are highly successful, striving for the best in any work environment. But on the inside, they struggle with high expectations for themselves because they believe being successful is the only way to win love. Knowing their deep seated insecurities, you feel for them and give them a little more leeway when you normally might consider them fake and prideful. Type Fives are the incredibly intelligent people in your life who are more awkward in social situations and often retreat to be alone, someone we would call a hermit or an awkward nerd without second thought. However, they don’t feel they have enough inner strength and resources to survive what the world requires of them. This is why they retreat from the world to recharge.

I personally love this new found compassion I have for the people in my life. I’m not equipped with tools to work with people and help them navigate their lives. Where my Type Six boyfriend’s pessimism once drove me crazy, I now know it’s an ingrained belief system and I need to have more patience (something Sevens don’t have enough of). A better understanding of the people around you changes the way you view your friends and colleagues. Application of what you learn can foster stronger connections with the people who are important to you.

It’s no secret the Enneagram has been life changing for me. This is why I wanted to share it with you. It’s amazing how a personality test can bring so much clarity to your life. Especially one like the Enneagram that analyzes how you interact with the world. It fell into my lap when I needed it most and now I’m on a wonderful path towards self-discovery. If this is a path you’re interested in, go take the test! I’d love to hear about your results in the comments below (or contact me if you want to talk more in depth about your results).

Want to read more about the Enneagram? It’s a favorite topic of mine

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