There are several words I could use to summarize 2018: grief, grace, angst, unknown. But another huge piece is self-discovery. This year has been defined by self-discovery, which began with therapy and continued after graduation with the Enneagram. The Enneagram kind of blew up into a big fad this past year, so chances are you might be tired of hearing about it by now. If you haven’t heard of it, basically it’s a personality typing system with nine types labeled (ingeniously) by the numbers One through Nine. I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about it; it seemed like just another personality test but one that was slightly cultish because it had a weird symbol and some pretty die-hard followers. But the more I’ve learned, the more I love this system more than other personality typing systems like Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder. While those are certainly helpful, they don’t go into as much depth as the Enneagram does, and they don’t uncover blind spots and areas of brokenness. As much as it’s hurt to have my blind spots pointed out to me, I think that’s what I’ve appreciated the most from the Enneagram. Another thing I love is that it’s helped me understand other people better. After spending a lot of time learning about my own type, I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about the other eight types, and it’s opened my eyes to how other people think. It’s helped me better understand why we do the things we do and given me greater grace for the areas where we “clash” because we see things differently. At its core, the Enneagram is an incredible tool for empathy. If you haven’t learned much about it before, I’d highly highly recommend that you go check it out (and I listed a few resources at the end of this post to help)!
So, I’m a Two. What that means is that I’m highly empathetic, nurturing, and emotionally sensitive. This emotional intelligence is a gift: because I can feel what others are feeling and am highly attuned to others’ needs, people feel comfortable with me and open up easily with me. The “official” title for the Two is “The Helper” or “The Giver,” which fits pretty well, but another name I’ve heard that I think is more accurate is “The Befriender.” At their best, Twos are professional befrienders, seeing the world through the lens of relationships, seeing others’ potential and helping them live in to it, and giving altruistically with no strings attached. When healthy, a Two is a force to be reckoned with. It’s been incredibly empowering to discover this beauty in myself and realize that God has designed me to love powerfully with quiet strength.
But there’s a shadow side to these strengths. It’s good to recognize the strong points of my personality, but these things are also true of me:
A deep-running shame of having needs that I attempt to cover up by helping others and believing that it’s not okay for me to need anything, including God
Being so wired to feeling what everyone else is feeling that I don’t know what I feel
Paying so much attention to taking care of everyone that I minimize and ignore my own needs and am often completely clueless as to what they even are
Caring for others as a way of avoiding/medicating loneliness and avoiding honesty and vulnerability
Unhealthy motivations behind serving/giving: giving strategically or giving to get (a form of manipulation because I don’t like asking for help directly); expecting that if I give to you, you’ll give back to me, and becoming angry and resentful when that expectation isn’t met or I feel like I’m being taken for granted
A core sin of pride that masks itself in giving myself away at my own expense and then telling myself it’s legitimate; a need to be needed, to see myself in a really positive light, to be self-sufficient, and to be liked, which is all really a form of pride
An underlying fear that love is not readily available, that I have to earn it, and that people wouldn’t like me if they actually knew me; an inability to receive the love of others because I feel unworthy of it
Believing that I can’t be loved for who I am and can only be loved if I meet the needs of others: an identity that is caught up in what I do, which gets in the way of relationship
A tendency toward codependency; believing that “I’m not okay unless you’re okay with me”
And my One-wing adds to the muddle of shame and brokenness by demanding that I meet people’s needs and do it perfectly every time.
When I first learned all that, it hurt. I didn’t want to believe this was actually the type that fit me the most because I hated all the ugliness, yet deep down inside I knew it was true. I fought it for a long time, but over time realized that it also fit so well with all the other things I’d been learning this year (learning how to feel, realizing that I have needs and that not all needs are mine to carry, resting in the truth that I am valuable and loved). And I can definitely see how all these things have played out with family, friends, coworkers, professors—pretty much all my relationships. Yet as much as it’s hurt to realize all these hidden layers of shame and pride, I’m so grateful that I am now aware of them, and that’s the first step toward growth and transformation.
There are many things I learned this year for the first time, but for most of them I’m still in the process of putting them into practice. This will likely be a lifetime process. But here’s what has been started this year:
I’m learning how to pay attention to/acknowledge my own needs, give myself permission to have needs at all, and ask others to help meet them. I’m learning that my needs actually make me more human, not less.
I’m learning how to acknowledge and get in touch with my own feelings and manage them instead of repressing or overdoing them.
I’m learning to live in to the gift of my brokenness. I’m learning that my brokenness is far more potent than my natural ability to connect with others, and once I’m able to own it and embrace it rather than resist it, it becomes a means for deeper relationship and deeper good.
I’m learning how to love and acknowledge myself and realize that I matter. I’m learning that even if I don’t feel worthy, I am worthy, and I’m learning that my worth is not in what I do.
I’m learning how to be alone, how to exist outside the context of relationship. I’m learning that solitude is really important and that I need to practice it, because it’s the only way I can get to know myself (this is one of the hardest ones).
I’m learning how to receive others’ love and care for me. I’m learning to be okay with just accepting that they want to be with me, and realizing that intimacy requires that I receive their love as much as I give to them. (This is also one of the hardest ones, so if you’re in my life, please keep reminding me that you don’t need me, but you love me and want to be with me.)
I’m learning how to rest in grace. I’m learning that I don’t need to do anything, and that I only need to posture myself to receive it. I’m learning that true love requires nothing of me and is attached to nothing.
I’m learning how to set boundaries and say no. I’m learning that I can say no, that not everything is mine to do, that I don’t need to fix everything.
I’m learning to be aware of my motives. I’m learning to ask for help instead of using manipulation to get what I need.
I’m learning that true humility and holiness looks like “being precisely who I am at any given time before God and other people” (roughly quoted from Thomas Merton) without needing to make myself larger or smaller.
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading. I hope that what I’ve shared resonates with you and your own story. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so if you want, leave a comment or send me a message through the contact page! Till next time, friends.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Enneagram, here are a few resources I’d recommend!
The Enneagram Institute website has some pretty in-depth descriptions of each of the nine types and a bunch of other information, all for free! You can also take the official Enneagram test from this website for only $12, but I’d definitely recommend just reading the type descriptions first and seeing which one resonates with you (or hurts) the most (the test isn’t always accurate—I actually scored higher for 6 and 9 than for 2 when I took it).
The Typology podcast has dozens of interviews with people from all nine types.
The Sacred Enneagram by Chris Huertz is a really helpful book that connects each of the nine types to a specific spiritual practice that is targeted to combat the self-destructive patterns that type falls into.
Ryan O’Neal of Sleeping at Last has been producing some absolutely amazing songs for each of the nine types (listen to them here!). As of now, he’s released seven of the nine, and they are so beautiful, thoughtful, sensitive, and deep, both lyrically and musically. He’s also produced a podcast episode to go with each of the songs as he releases them, where he explains his process for making each song and goes into more depth about that type. If you’re trying to figure out your type, maybe try listening to each of his Enneagram songs and see which one resonates the most. (And if you want a glimpse into my brain, listen to “Two.” It’s crazy how accurate it is.)