We’ve all grown up with the idea that we are on some transient journey to “find ourselves.” We hear about people who venture into the wilderness “off the grid” with no reception for a month and emerge from the woods a new person. This leads most to believe that who we are before this big “aha” moment is just some imposter in place of the real version of ourselves that will one day appear. The Enneagram completely wiped away this faint map of a self-discovery path winding through the back of my brain and replaced it with a road sign saying “there’s no one else to find.”
The Enneagram exposes the concept that you were created to be your authentic self but may have been confusing this with your personality, which is really just the mask we use to strive to protect our true self. “Before we can become who we really are, we must become conscious of the fact that the person who we think we are, here and now, is at best an imposter and a stranger,” Thomas Merton said. Your Enneagram type or number is not reflective of your personality but actually your most inner, true self.
To take the first steps on the Enneagram’s journey of self-understanding, you can take an online test, talk to someone who knows both you and the Enneagram well or, to be completely sure of your type, read about it.
After I took those first two steps and was sure of my type, I began to read into it. As I read all about type 8, I felt like I was reading words written by a little elf living in my brain. Everything I read was a direct reflection of who I am, yet I had never been able to put these truths about myself into words. Although reading all this gave an explanation for the ways I act, love and fail, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know deep down. That’s why I have primarily found the Enneagram as a way to understand those around me.
As a type 8, I have a lot of trouble understanding that there are other truths beyond my own and that not everyone can see things the way I do. It was almost earth-shattering to hear from the 9s why they avoid conflict; I always thought that was just a bad habit of theirs that needed to be fixed. I never would have thought that the 3s in my life-who’s constant people-pleasing I can’t stand-are really trying to combat feeling unworthy.
I was completely fascinated to hear about the way other people see life, because I have always been too busy trying to force them to put on an 8’s glasses.
Reading about each Enneagram type with my family and friends in mind gave me insight into thought processes some of them probably couldn’t even explain about themselves. Understanding provides for acceptance and empathy, which is exactly what I took away from reading about the Enneagram and brought into my friendships.
The Enneagram forced me to look in the mirror at my innermost fears, desires and faults. While these realizations created a few moments of self-hatred, they left me with a greater sense of self and a comfort in knowing why I am who I am. More importantly, the Enneagram allowed me a glimpse inside the minds and hearts of people I thought I could never relate to.
I’ve learned that there is a reason, and sometimes a fear, behind every person’s actions and inactions. Everyone sees the world in a completely different light, but that should never hinder our relationships or force us into the shade of others’ views. There are many truths in this world, and accepting our own and others’ is the only way to truly love ourselves and others.