Don’t get curious about the Enneagram if you want your life to stay the same.
I was 30 and a week out of a bad breakup when my friend convinced me to attend a weekend-long seminar on the Enneagram. I started the workshop Friday evening slightly apathetic but by Sunday I was broke open and ready to make major changes in my life. And by major I mean I closed my company that—one I had practically killed myself to start 3 years previously. I had to file bankruptcy to do this. I also foreclosed on my house and gave my car to the bank.
The seemingly successful life I had built was built on self-abandonment. And I wanted a line in the sand—a line that represented the life I had built out of a very sad belief that I was inherently unlovable. I felt the need to create an image of success to impress other people and convince them that I was worthy of their friendship, love, and respect.
This line would be the birthing point of a new life that I built out of the belief that my authentic self is inherently worthy and what I do with my life stems from what lights up my soul and not what makes me look good.
The Enneagram is a personality typing system, sort of like Meyers Briggs, but in my opinion much more detailed, deep and possibly transformational for yourself and all your relationships—whether they are work or personal. The Enneagram belief is that there are 9 different personality types, each with their own very different way of seeing and operating in the world. I’m sure some of you will be thinking this is a bit ‘goopy,’ but it was very validating for me to learn that the FBI has all job applicants “typed” and only hires certain types (some people say “point”) for certain positions. Most FBI agents that go undercover are point 5. If you read about the type you will know why. They are called the genius observer! (Einstein was a type 5.)
Within 3 months the life I had built to impress others was gone. I had $400 in my bank account and I was waitressing part-time—but I happy. I began a multi-year committed relationship with therapy and began to build a new life. Every time I thought about doing something I had to ask myself, “are you doing this because it will make you look good or would you still do this even if no one knew about it?” Iit was hard. My image/ego wanted to keep impressing and I had to be gentle with myself when I behaved outside my newly found authentic self.
My newfound self later got married, had a son, became a stay-at-home mom, started a charter school, founded a startup, later divorced, and became an Executive Director of The Haven. I weathered all of that shift, change, and growth with a sense of my own value and worthiness because of the Enneagram.
I have been studying the Enneagram for 13 years now and it has profoundly changed my life in every area. I directly correlate my knowledge of the Enneagram to the success I have in my career.
I believe the Enneagram allows you to feel an abundance of compassion for yourself and everyone in your life. Each of the 9 types have their own core belief. This core belief helps you make every decision in your life. From who you will marry, what job you do, to how you react in conflict. It’s like a tape player going on repeat in your brain with the same message over and over. For my type (point 3) the belief I had was that my true self was inherently unlovable and that I would only be loved/accepted/adored because of what I did and not for who I was.
So, I “did” at an alarming rate. I graduated at the top of my class. I worked 16 hour days all of my 20’s. I lived in 4 different countries. I was the first person in my immediate family to buy a house. I was at the top of my career field, started a business, and owned 2 rental houses all in my 20’s. And I did all of this to prove to everyone else, and myself, that I was worthy. However, I was miserable and dying inside, I was exhausted, and so, so sad.
The Enneagram literally stopped these beliefs in their tracks. It gave me the courage to dig into that belief system and create a new one. When I can live my life from a place of worthiness I can lead with strength and vulnerability. I can ask for my worth to be recognized when it comes to salary negotiations or promotions. I can see the worth of my staff and the unique benefits they bring because they are different personality types, each seeing the world through their own world view. I can stop expecting them all to work like 3’s.
Now, I look for ways that they do things differently— ways that actually work. My ego used to say “my way is the best way because it’s the most efficient”. Now, I get to be curious about you. I ask more questions, talk less, and listen more.
It has shown me how to be courageous with my voice in a way makes people lean in and want to connect, which has changed everything. Because, at the end of the day, the most important thing to me is authentic connection.
The month after The Haven opened we hosted an Enneagram workshop and most of the staff attended (which means that our team here all know our types). I know what my boss is and she knows what I am (thank goodness we are both 3’s!). It has been an amazing experience to bring the Enneagram into my work life after so many years of using it in my personal life.
If you are curious about the Enneagram there are many ways to begin. There are two views on figuring out your type. Some teachers believe only you should determine what your type is, and that no one knows you better than yourself and part of the journey is reading about each type and figuring it out. The other thought process is that it is often very hard to figure out your own type, mostly because where the gold in the Enneagram lies is that it takes your shadow parts of your personality and brings it out into the light. Shadow parts are the parts of your personality or pattern that you are unaware of and usually wreaks the most havoc.
The very first thing I would do (because I’m a 3 and love efficiency!) is book an appointment with an Enneagram therapist/coach/counselor for a “typing” session. They should be highly trained in the Enneagram and typing people. Once you know your type there are unlimited books, articles and websites that you can learn more about your type. Many therapists have Enneagram training and can use this knowledge to help you in your sessions as well.
I’m always happy to talk about the Enneagram. Feel free to reach out!