You may have heard of it; it’s called the Enneagram. It is an ancient personality typing system dating back more than 2,000 years, however, we did not begin catching on to its differentiating value until about 10 years ago.
The Enneagram studies patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. It details nine personality types created to help understand ourselves, others and our relationships. It uniquely separates itself from other personality tests by identifying our behaviors, the motivations behind these behaviors and each personality types’ worldview. For example, two people can be exhibiting the same type of behavior, yet, the motivation underneath the behavior is serving a completely different need. The Enneagram is more than a personality test that describes characteristics because it also can be applied for self-knowledge and personal growth. The number “assigned” to you only scratches the surface of an Enneagram’s value.
I apply this tool when working with individuals and couples who have relationship concerns. It helps individuals and couples understand themselves better, develop compassion and curiosity for one another, and normalizes behavioral patterns and motivations. It also serves as a great tool for shame resilience.
It can be used in all kinds of relationships – romantic, professional, personal. The Enneagram has been promoted in business management as well as spirituality contexts. In the business environment, it is a useful tool to gain insights into workplace interpersonal dynamics; in spirituality realms, it helps lead us to a higher state of being and enlightenment. In both instances, it aids in self-awareness, self-understanding and self-development. It gives us insight into ourselves and into others, and it helps us develop empathy and perspective.
In this era of social media, we are longing for more tools to understand ourselves better, and more than ever, we are desperate to connect with others, in fact, we are hungry for it. The Enneagram can be a very useful resource.
Let’s take a look at the nine types identified through the Enneagram. These are described briefly. Once you think you have identified your type, you may begin to use it as a tool to guide yourself through self-reflection and self-improvement while connecting and understanding colleagues, friends and spouses better.
Type 1 (The Reformer)
Reformers are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders and advocates for change: always striving to make improvements but afraid they will make a mistake. They are well-organized, orderly and efficient, and they try to maintain high standards, however, they also can be critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their best, they are wise, discerning, realistic, noble, and they can be morally heroic. Their basic fear is being corrupt, evil or defective. Their basic desire is to be good, to have integrity and to be balanced. Reformers’ key motivations are to be right, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, and to be beyond criticism.
Type 2 (The Helper)
These individuals are empathetic, sincere, warm-hearted, friendly, generous and self-sacrificing, but they also can be sentimental, flattering and people-pleasing. Helpers are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but they also may do things for others to feel needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their best they are unselfish and altruistic, and they have unconditional love for others. Their basic fear is being unwanted and unworthy of being loved. Their basic desire is to feel loved, and their key motivations are that they want to be loved, they want to express their feelings for others, they want to be needed and appreciated, they want others to respond to them and they want to vindicate their claims about themselves.
Type 3 (The Achiever)
Achievers are self-assured, ambitious, competent, energetic and charming. They also can be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement. They are diplomatic and poised, but they also can be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. Achievers typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness. At their best, they are self-accepting, authentic and role models who inspire others. Their basic fear is feeling worthless, and their basic desire is to feel valuable and worthwhile. Key motivations for achievers are their need for affirmation, their need to distinguish themselves from others, to have attention, to be admired and to impress others.
Type 4 (The Individualist)
They are self-aware, sensitive and reserved. Individualists are emotionally honest, creative and personal, but they also can be moody and self-conscious. They may withhold themselves from others because they feel vulnerable and defective. They also can feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence and self-pity. At their best, they are inspired and highly creative, and they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences. Their basic fear is to have no identity or personal significance, and their basic desire is to find themselves and their significance in order to create an identity. Key motivations include wanting to express themselves and their individuality, create and surround themselves with beauty, maintain certain moods and feelings, withdraw to protect their self-image, and take care of emotional needs before anything else.
Type 5 (The Investigator)
Investigators are alert, insightful, curious, independent, innovative and inventive. They can concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. They also can become preoccupied with their thoughts and imagination. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their best, they are visionary pioneers – often ahead of their time – and they are able to see the world in an entirely new way. Their basic fear is being useless, helpless or incapable. Their basic desire is to be capable and competent. Key motivators are they want to possess knowledge, they want to understand the environment, and they want to have everything figured out as a way of defending themselves from threats from the environment.
Type 6 (The Loyalist)
Loyalists are committed and security-oriented. They are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. They are excellent troubleshooters, they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but they also can become defensive, evasive and anxious – running on stress while complaining about it. Loyalists can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their best, they are internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others. Their basic fear is not having support or guidance, and their basic desire is to have security and support. They are motivated by wanting to have security, to feeling supported by others, to having certitude and reassurance, to testing the attitudes of others toward them, and to fighting against anxiety and insecurity.
Type 7 (The Enthusiast)
These individuals are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, spontaneous, playful, high-spirited, practical, and they also can misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their best, they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous and satisfied. Their basic fear is of being deprived and in pain, and their basic desire is to be satisfied and content, to have their needs fulfilled. As key motivations, Enthusiasts want to maintain their freedom and happiness, avoid missing out on worthwhile experiences, keep themselves excited and occupied, and avoid pain.
Type 8 (The Challenger)
Challengers are self-confident, strong, assertive, protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but they also can be ego-centric and domineering. They feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. They typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. At their best, they are self-mastering, they use their strength to improve the lives of others, and they are heroic, magnanimous and inspiring. Their basic fear is of being harmed or controlled by others, and their basic desire is to protect themselves so they can be in control of their own life and destiny. Key motivations for the Challenger include wanting to be self-reliant, wanting to prove strength and resist weakness, wanting to be important, wanting to dominate the environment and wanting to stay in control.
Type 9 (The Peacemaker)
Peacemakers are accepting, trusting and stable. They usually are creative, optimistic and supportive, but they also can be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and without conflict, but they also can tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their best, they are indomitable and all-embracing, and they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts. Their basic fear is loss or separation, and their basic desire is to have inner stability and peace of mind. What motivates them is wanting to create harmony in their environment, avoid conflicts and tension, preserve the status quo, and resist what can upset or disturb them.
Here is some information you may find helpful when reviewing and trying to understand what your Enneagram type means.
- No one number is better than another. Individuals may relate to more than one type, but in general, people do not change from one Enneagram type to another.
- Each of these nine personality types is defined by a particular core belief of how the world works. This core belief drives an individual’s deepest motivations and fears and fundamentally shapes a person’s world view and perspective. Understanding our Enneagram type can help us see our own blindspots and expand our acceptance to the world views of others with more empathy.
Your core beliefs will not change, but now you have valuable information to capture the opportunity for personal development, which can lead to a greater understanding of others and improved relationships – personally, professionally and romantically.
Please, do not get stuck on your number. Instead, use it as a tool for growth and further self-discovery; don’t let it define you or limit who you are.