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I think I’ve mentioned (approximately five or six times) that I’m kind of obsessed with the Enneagram, and I’ve had a few questions about what exactly this is, and why I talk about it so much.
So since I’m now writing weekly blog posts about things I’m passionate about, let me introduce you to my biggest non-travel obsession: The Enneagram!
In this post, I’m going to (not so) briefly explain what exactly the Enneagram is, why I’m so obsessed with it, and how I’ve been using it for personal growth!
So… What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a personality typing system with 9 different types, sort of like Myers-Brigs (I’m an ENFP), or many of the other awesome personality systems out there. That said, there are a few major differences that make the Enneagram really stand out.
Firstly, the Enneagram is motivation-based. Rather than describing your outward personality, or your pattern of decision making, the Enneagram types are all based on your inner motivation, aka WHY you do what you do.
So rather than putting you in a box and saying, “here are your strengths and weaknesses, this is how you behave, and here are a few things you should work on”, the Enneagram actually shows you the box you’ve put yourself in, and teaches you how to get out of it.
Rather than saying “this is my personality, I’m an [insert type here]”, the entire point of the Enneagram is to identify the things that you do that aren’t serving you, and gradually let them go.
Maybe I don’t have to always put others’ needs before my own. Maybe it’s okay if I fail. What if I just let other people take care of this, even if they don’t do it the ‘right’ way. Maybe I should just try to be happy where I am right now, instead of thinking that the next country or the next adventure is going to make me happier…
All of these thoughts above are things that different Enneagram types need to contend with if you want to grow and stop letting your “personality” control you.
Your Core Fear and Core Desire
Every Enneagram type has its own core fear and core desire that motivates your behavior. In short, your core fear is something you’re running away from, and your core desire is something you’re running towards!
Now your core fear isn’t necessarily your biggest scariest nightmare or anything like that. It’s more of an underlying fear that influences your behavior and motivation. A lot of the time, these core fears are so deep we actually don’t even know that they’re there influencing us!
Starting as children, we begin to build up these ego “personalities” to protect us from our core fear. We start doing behaviors that we feel we need to do in order to be happy, safe, and loved. In running away from our core fear and towards our core desire, we start doing a lot of things that don’t really serve us or the people around us, and actually make our lives harder!
Once you realize that your core fear is just a story you tell yourself and nothing more, you can start releasing these beliefs and behaviors that are making you miserable, and start actually enjoying your life.
I love this quick 12-minute Enneagram Intro
Explaining the Nine Types of the Enneagram
If you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you’re wondering about the nine different types and which type you are! Well, let me quickly go over each of them for you!
1. Type One: The Reformer
Type one’s core fear is of being a bad, evil, or defective person, and their core desire is to be a good person with integrity.
Type Ones are all about making the world a better place, and are really hard on themselves (and the people and institutions around them) in pursuit of this. They are typically a bit perfectionistic and critical, have an eye for detail, and are well-organized.
Ones have strong beliefs about what is right and wrong and spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences of their actions. To quote the Enneagram Institute, they’re often “teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake.”
Ones also have a harsh inner critic that points out when they’re not living up to their own standards. This leads to a lot of frustration and anger with other people for being more relaxed and carefree. This anger is usually repressed (because angry outbursts are “bad”) and manifests as tension.
Ones try so hard to be good and make the world perfect, but the growth for this type comes when they realize the world is an imperfect place. Ones need to relax, let things go, and focus their efforts on realistic goals that will make a positive impact.
2. Type Two: The Helper
Type Two’s core desire is to be loved and appreciated, and their core fear is that deep down, the people around them won’t love them unless they’re constantly giving of themselves. They fear being unwanted, and unworthy of love.
Twos are sincere, warm-hearted, generous, and self-sacrificing. However, they can also fall into the trap of people-pleasing, and using flattery to manipulate people.
Twos are either the most genuinely helpful people or are at least the most invested in seeing themselves that way. This is because average Twos give in order to receive. They constantly put others’ needs ahead of their own because they don’t want to be “selfish”, and expect love, attention, and care in return.
Twos often present this false image of being completely selfless and giving, but on the inside, they have enormous expectations of others. They believe that in order to receive love, they need to be self-sacrificing. But putting others first all the time makes Twos secretly resentful that others aren’t doing the same. Because of this, they’ll often erupt without warning, revealing the hidden expectations they have of others.
The growth for Type Two comes with focusing more on caring for your own needs and lessening your expectations of others. Also, Twos need to recognize that love comes in many forms, and others may be loving you right now without you constantly giving.
3. Type Three: The Achiever/ Performer
Type Threes desire success, achievement, and admiration, and their core fear is that without all of their achievements they’re inherently worthless and unworthy of love.
Because Threes cannot see that they are worthy of love by just existing, they feel a constant need to earn love and affection through performing and achieving. They’re often competitive, driven, and assertive, going after what they think will make them feel valued by those around them.
That said, many Threes are also diplomatic and charming, with a chameleon-like ability to mold themselves to fit into any group. While Threes may appear to be confident and self-assured, most Threes have no idea who they truly are or what they really want, aside from being “successful” and “valued” by the people around them. This “success” could be becoming a CEO, a famous celebrity, a top scientist in your field, or even being the picture-perfect stay at home mom.
The growth for Type Three comes from following your heart and finding the things that truly bring you happiness, even if it’s not considered “successful” in your culture or peer group. Also, Threes can make incredible coaches and mentors when they take their drive and help others succeed.
4. Type Four: The Individualist
Deep down, Fours are afraid that they have no identity or personal significance, and they yearn to find themselves and create a unique personal identity.
Fours see themselves as inherently different from others. They are very invested in seeing themselves special, and uniquely talented, with gifts that no one else has. However, they also see themselves as uniquely disadvantaged too, looking at others who seem to possess skills they’ll never have: whether its social ease, determination, or confidence.
Fours truly believe that they are unlike other people, and because of this, no one can really understand them or love them properly. That said, Fours are also looking for a rescuer: someone who will see the “real” them and love them fully.
Fours really want to create a stable identity for themselves, and they do this by latching onto particular emotions or memories while rejecting others. They tend to be very creative, and use things like music or memories to prolong feelings of melancholy.
The real growth for Type Four happens when you realize there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone is uniquely special. You can also use your sensitivity to be compassionate towards others, rather than separating yourself and pulling away.
5. Type Five: The Investigator
Fives are deeply afraid of being useless, incapable, or helpless, and are chasing the feeling of being capable and competent.
Fives deal with this fear of being helpless and incapable by acquiring knowledge. They’re insightful, curious, and want to know why things are the way they are. They’re not satisfied with basic explanations and like to probe a chosen topic in-depth.
Fives feel like the more information they have on a particular topic (be it gardening, astrophysics, or the history of Ancient Egypt), the more they will be confident and prepared. That said, Fives often feel incapable when it comes to practical everyday things, like approaching a crush, cooking dinner, or learning to drive. Rather than overcoming these fears by taking driving lessons, or watching a cooking show, Fives will throw themselves into their area of research instead. This serves as a distraction from their real anxiety by giving them a false feeling of confidence and preparedness that… doesn’t actually solve the real problem.
In addition, Fives are typically very uncomfortable with emotions, preferring logic instead. They also never quite feel like an expert, despite having multiple years of experience or a Ph.D.
Finally, Fives have very limited energy, and are very conscious of how they spend it. It’s not uncommon for a Five to completely withdraw into their head, or be very upfront about needing alone time.
Growth for Type Five begins when they start addressing the real fears that are giving them anxiety (like having a relationship), and realizing that they can pursue their unique passions while also taking care of themselves and their basic needs.
6. Type Six: The Loyal Skeptic
Sixes are afraid of being abandoned or without support and guidance, and are running towards support and security.
Sixes are called the Loyal Skeptic because they’re often skeptical of people, ideas, or institutions at first, but once you win a Six over, they’re the most loyal supporter you’ll ever have.
This is because deep down, Sixes are afraid of being without support and guidance, so they latch onto ideas, institutions, and people to give them advice and support. Once a Six has identified themselves with something or someone, they’ll hold onto ideas and people far longer than everyone else.
While Ones are said to have an inner critic, Sixes have an inner committee. They need to consult with various people before making any major (or even minor) decisions. This is because Sixes lack confidence in their own judgment.
Sixes are also “realists” and tend to prepare for the worst-case scenario. They’re constantly vigilant, waiting for something to go wrong. But this means that when things do go wrong, they’re often the best equipped to step up in a crisis.
For Sixes to grow, they need to deal with their own inner anxieties and learn to trust their own judgment. They also need to learn that the world is uncertain, and always changing. Once Sixes can be confident and capable despite the uncertainty, they’ll become much happier.
7. Type Seven: The Enthusiast
Sevens are most afraid of being limited or deprived and trapped in pain (mainly emotional pain). Their core desire is to be happy, satisfied, and content.
Why are Sevens called the enthusiast? Well, they’re enthusiastic about anything that catches their attention. Sevens are passionate, busy, glass-half-full optimists, that are very future-oriented, always coming up with new ideas and experiences to get excited about.
But life for Sevens isn’t all great. Sevens often keep themselves busy as a distraction so that they don’t have to deal with boredom, emotional pain, or other uncomfortable emotions like FOMO, or that “grass is always greener” longing.
Sevens aggressively chase the things that they think will make them happy. Whether it’s traveling the world, getting that corner office, re-doing the kitchen, or driving across the country in an ice cream truck. They’ve got big dreams and ideas… that change frequently. I’ve never wanted anything so bad in my life, it’s been my dream since lunch!!
Deep down, Sevens don’t actually know what they want and are afraid they’re never going to find what their true purpose is. So, to avoid those feelings, they substitute their true longing with… anything that sounds fun and exciting.
The real growth for Sevens comes from slowing down and actually processing your emotions. Also, appreciating the present and the things you do have in your life, rather than jumping from adventure to experience hoping it will fill the hole inside you.
If you haven’t already guessed, yes, I’m a Seven. I’m sure the above paragraphs explain a lot about me for you now…
8. Type Eight: The Challenger
The main thing Eights fear most is being controlled or manipulated. Because of this, Eights desire to be in control of themselves, their life, and their destiny.
Eights are the straight-forward, strong, assertive, decisive, and somewhat confrontational members of the Enneagram. They tell it like it is, and if they have an opinion you’ll be sure to know about it. Eights also aren’t afraid to show their anger and passion, which can be a bit intimidating to some people.
Eights naturally step up to take leadership positions and usually have no problems telling others what to do, especially if it ensures a job well done. Eights have such a natural presence around them, that you can typically tell you’re in a room with an Eight, even if they’re not talking!
Deep down, Eights are afraid of being controlled and manipulated and don’t want to be seen as weak, which means that they are rarely comfortable opening up emotionally to those around them, and often keep their hearts closely guarded.
“Vulnerability” is a concept that makes most Eights feel very uncomfortable, but this is precisely what they need in order to grow. When Eights let others in, they can become incredible advocates for the underdog, and are very caring, loving, and loyal. Also, Eights need to realize that sometimes it’s okay to open up and let others take care of you for a change. Letting go of control is hard, but it’s just what you need to grow.
9. Type Nine: The Peacemaker
Nines are deeply afraid of loss and separation caused by conflict, and they desire to have stability and peace of mind.
Nines are the easygoing, diplomatic, agreeable members of the Enneagram. They’re great at seeing all sides of an issue, and typically get along with just about anyone! However, Nines have the tendency to fall asleep to their own needs and desires. But unlike Twos, Nines don’t need love and attention as much as they want peace and lack of conflict.
In an effort to “keep the peace” both internally and externally, Nines can become complacent. They’ll ignore problems by “vegging out” binging Netflix, or reading a good book.
Sometimes Nines can find themselves doing things for others all day, to the point that they don’t have any energy to fight for their own needs and desires. On top of that, Nines are worried that having an opinion, or speaking up for themselves will cause conflict and disrupt their peace.
Growth for Nines comes with waking up to your own desires and passions and becoming more assertive of your own wants and needs. Healthy Nines know a little bit of stress and conflict is necessary in life if you want to grow, and they’re not afraid to ask for what they need.
How to Discover Your Own Enneagram Type
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably curious about how you can find your own Enneagram type.
Well, honestly the best way to discover your own type is to read the descriptions above and click through to read more about the types you think might be yours. You may know exactly what your type is after reading this post, but more likely, you’ve probably got it narrowed down to 2-3 types.
If you really want to take a quiz, there are decent free and paid quizzes online, however, these quizzes are NOT 100% accurate. This is because a lot of the time we don’t actually know why we do what we do, so the quizzes are measuring behavior, not motivation. If you want to take a quiz, use the quiz to help you narrow down your possible types, and then do some personal research.
I’m Confused About My Type!
There’s a strong possibility you’ll relate to more than one type. For example, when I read about the Enneagram and took a few quizzes, I always came out with Three and Seven.
I related a lot to the behavior of Seven, but reading the core fear of Three hit harder (probably because the core fear of Seven is confusing…). I’m also fairly ambitious and I want to be “successful”, so I had a really hard time deciding which type I was.
So what did I do? I learned more about both types!
I listened to podcasts and watched Youtube videos where they compared Threes and Sevens. I also did a lot of introspection about WHY I want to be successful.
After all of this, I realized that I’m definitely a Seven for a few key reasons. Firstly, I want to be successful BECAUSE I feel like I need to be successful in order to be happy (the core motivation of Seven). I feel like having a successful business will make me feel fulfilled and allow me to live the life I want to live. More money will allow me to travel more, and invest in a team that can help give me more freedom to follow my passions. Plus, if I’m going to work hard, I might as well have something to show for it right?
Next, I realized that I really don’t care that much about appearing successful in the eyes of others or society. I don’t care about appearing to have it all together, and I couldn’t not be myself if I tried. Yes, I do want other people to think I’m successful and to like me, but that isn’t my primary motivation for doing what I do.
A Quick Note on “Typing” Other People
While it can be fun to try and guess the Enneagram type of other people, try not to go up to someone and tell them what you think their type is. This is for a few main reasons.
Firstly, you might be wrong! I actually got the Enneagram type of my husband wrong, which should tell you how easy it is to mistype people!! This is especially true if you’re not professionally trained as an Enneagram coach.
Next, you’re actually robbing them of the process of self-discovery. Figuring out your Enneagram type is a really interesting and introspective process that may take some time. You don’t want to take that experience away from anyone.
If someone asks you what type you think they are, feel free to point them in a direction, but be sure to let them know that only they can find their own Enneagram type. No one truly knows what your type is but you.
That said, there are professionally certified Enneagram coaches that offer typing sessions where they ask you a bunch of questions to help you find your type. But even these people don’t tell you what your type is! (If they do, you should probably ask for your money back). They’ll merely help you come to the conclusion all on your own by asking the right questions and explaining the types in more detail.
Fun fact, this Enneagram coach training is something I REALLY want to do once I save up enough money to get certified!!
The Enneagram Goes Way Deeper Than Finding Your Type
Once you learn your type, there’s a whole wealth of information for those of you who want to take it deeper!
I don’t want to completely overwhelm you in this post, but just for an example, you’ve got three subtypes of each number which further breakdown how your personality is expressed. You can also take on personality traits (positive and negative) from the numbers on either side of your number. This is called “wings”.
Finally, you’ll notice a bunch of lines through the Enneagram symbol. These are the “stress and growth” lines. For example, you’ll notice Type Seven has lines to One and Five. This is because Sevens take on some negative traits of Ones when they get stressed and become more perfectionistic and critical. But in growth they take on some positive aspects of a Healthy Five, focusing on one topic in-depth, rather than jumping around from thing to thing.
I know this stuff can be super overwhelming for an Enneagram intro though, so I would first focus on finding your type and worry about this stuff later. If you’re really having trouble finding your type with the basic descriptions, then start looking into the subtypes (otherwise known as “instinctual variants”), which can be very helpful.
If you’re curious or can’t find your type, just leave me a comment below and I can point you in the right direction! I’ll also link a bunch of resources at the end of this post.
Why I’m So Obsessed With the Enneagram
Personally, I’ve always been into psychology and personality theories. Before the Enneagram, I was obsessed with Myers Briggs and basically forced everyone in my office to take the test.
But then after a while, I realized… there wasn’t much room for growth. While ENFP sounded so much like me that it was actually shocking (and none of the other types sound anything like me at all), I ran out of suggestions for how to grow and improve. I read a few books on Myers Briggs and ENFPs, but… that was about it.
The Enneagram is a Little Bit Mean
When a friend first introduced me to the Enneagram almost two years ago, I decided to take a test (because I didn’t know any better) and read a bit about the types Three and Seven to narrow it down.
But I couldn’t help but feel like the Enneagram was a bit… mean? It felt like 80% of what they said was negative and overly harsh, and as a Seven, I didn’t want to hear it. I think that’s why I latched so hard onto Type Three because none of the negatives of Type Three really hit me the way the Seven flaws do.
I’ll be honest, learning about your Enneagram type in-depth can feel like getting slapped in the face. The Enneagram is going to tell you things about yourself you don’t want to hear, and it’s going to point out your “shadow side” that you probably like to pretend doesn’t exist (especially if you’re a Seven like me).
But… that’s exactly what we need if we want to grow.
Using the Enneagram for Compassion and Self-Growth
The entire point of the Enneagram is to identify the things that you do that aren’t serving you so that you can grow as a happier, healthier human. This means there’s always something new to work on.
Learning about the Enneagram has also made me way more compassionate towards other people. Not everyone has the same motivation and drives as I do, and when I see someone do something that’s “annoying” or hurtful, I usually have a pretty good idea of WHY they might’ve done it. This gives me compassion for that person, rather than anger or resentment.
Learning about the Enneagram has also been really helpful in my relationships. I learned so much about my husband Chris when we started talking about the Enneagram and discovered his type. It was shocking how much of him I didn’t actually know until we started talking about the Enneagram together. I really couldn’t believe that I was learning all of these things about him after we were married!
Discovering the Enneagram types of my family members has also been super helpful too! It’s helped me understand our family dynamics, the ways in which I’m similar and different from my parents, and shed light on my childhood and the values that I was raised with. I can also see a little bit of both of my parents’ types in my own behavior, which is super common.
How I’ve Changed After Learning About My Type
Honestly, I don’t have room in this post to fully address this, because we’re already at 4,000 words and counting (whoopsies!). But I do want to quickly mention it here and let you know I’ll be writing a full post on this in the future.
The first step to growth with the Enneagram is noticing when you’re doing one of your “things” that’s not serving you. Then, once you start noticing in real-time, you can begin the process of choosing not to do that thing.
For example, when I get very stressed out, I do this thing that my husband Chris calls “getting stressy”. I start venting about all the things I need to do, rattling off my giant to-do-list AT him. I don’t even want advice, I just want to be stressed…?
I also get frustrated with other people. I march into the kitchen demanding to know why the entire house is such a mess. I freak out that I’m the “only one doing anything around here”, and get angry with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING.
Hint: This is me as a Seven going to Type One in stress…
So, do I still get “stressy” sometimes? Yes, of course! But more and more often, I catch myself in the act. I see myself going to that place and I say to myself “What if I just… didn’t do that?”
I try to look inward and ask myself if the dishes are really the problem, or is it because I overcommitted and overpromised at work? Usually, it’s not the dishes…
How to Learn More About the Enneagram
If you’re obsessed with the Enneagram and want to learn more, reading basic type descriptions on the Enneagram Institute is NOT going to be enough for you. Trust me… I know from personal experience.
While I’d love to do a full post on this in the future, here are my current favorite resources for learning more about the Enneagram!
The first offers shorter episodes (typically 5-20 minutes), along with longer interviews with people of different types. The second has 45 minute – 1 hour long podcasts from an Enneagram coach answering your most common Enneagram questions.
Enneagram Youtube Channels
For the best intro to the Enneagram, I’d go with Hillary McCaskey Enneagram Life Coach. She has some short, extremely informative videos about all of the types, how the Enneagram works, and more!
If you’re looking for something really in-depth, I like Dr. Tom LaHue. He does longer 20-60 minute videos that are really focused on self-understanding and growth. His videos on Sevens (especially about the wings and subtypes) REALLY opened my eyes to some of my major blind spots and bad habits. Plus he’s a Seven so he’s especially brutal to us.
PS- I cringed SO HARD when watching his video on 7 subtypes… Ahhhhh
For funny Enneagram skits along with some insightful Enneagram information, check out Leeann and Michelle, and Abbey Howe. Frank James also does some hilarious Enneagram content, but he mostly focuses on Myers Briggs.
I’m currently working on a goal to read at least one big Enneagram book a month, so I’m sure this list will grow soon, but here are my thoughts on which books will help you get started.
My favorite intro to the Enneagram book is the Honest Enneagram. This book is by Sarah Jane Case of the Enneagram and Coffee podcast and was written in 2020, so it’s super easy to read and understand. She also offers a kinder approach to the Enneagram and explains how the Enneagram works with steps for how to use it for self-growth.
If you really want to go super in-depth and learn all about the Enneagram, Wisdom of the Enneagram is the book for you. This book is considered the “Enneagram bible” and is GIANT. There are super in-depth chapters on each type, as well as a ton of valuable information about the Enneagram. That said, it can be a bit dense for beginners, so I suggest starting with the first book and then moving onto this one.
Finally, if you really want to learn more about subtypes, the next book you need to read is The Complete Enneagram. This book covers all 27 subtypes in-depth (3 subtypes for each number). So if you want to learn more about your subtype, or you’re having a REALLY hard time finding your number, this is the book for you.
** Quick note on books: If you’re going to buy an Enneagram book I highly suggest getting a physical book rather than an e-book. Trust me, I first bought the Wisdom of the Enneagram on Kindle and I hated how hard it was to make notes and flip around between chapters. These books are SO much easier to use with a physical copy.
What Are Your Thoughts on the Enneagram? (and more posts like this)
Honestly, this post barely scratches the surface of the Enneagram. I have soooo much more to say, but this post is already way too long so I’ll stop.
So instead I’d love to know: are you into the Enneagram? Has this post made you interested in learning more about the Enneagram?? Do you know your Enneagram number or are you still struggling to figure it out?
I would love to hear more on your thoughts about these kinds of posts because I really want to write more about this, even if it isn’t strictly related to travel.
For me, learning more about my type has really helped me understand my lifestyle and my constant need for travel, adventure, and things to be new and exciting, so I’ll definitely be writing more about that! (Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of you are also sevens).
But if there’s anything else you’d love to hear in regards to the Enneagram or self-growth, let me know!