Embracing The Enneagram: A Tool for Deep Personal Growth, Not Just a Personality Test
Perhaps you’ve taken the Enneagram Test in school or at work. Maybe you’ve never heard of it.
The Enneagram is a personality framework that has a rich history and can be instrumental in self-reflection and relationships. After you answer the questionnaire, you are matched with one of nine numbers representing your basic personality type. Now, you may think that people are far too unique to fit into only nine categories, however the Enneagram is simply an outline that points to the infinite variations and layers that accompany each number.
Today, people often take the test and let the number they receive be the final verdict. “Well, I’m a 2 so that’s just the way I am,” is a commonly heard excuse for any attributes that the number may carry. Unfortunately, this kind of mindset limits just how insightful the Enneagram can be.
Grit, Grind, Grace, and Growth
In her book “The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge,” Beatrice Chestnut explores the work that the Enneagram invites us to do:
“The path from observing your passion to finding its antidote is not exactly the same for each of the subtypes. The path of conscious self-work has been characterized in terms of ‘grit, grind, and grace:’ the ‘grit’ of our personality habits, the ‘grind’ of our efforts to grow, and the ‘grace’ that comes to us when we strive to be more aware of ourselves, to develop ourselves, and work toward our virtues in positive and healthy ways. ...each subtype has to grind, or exert effort, against something slightly different. This insight is one of the great benefits of understanding the three distinct subtypes of each of the nine types.”
The Enneagram numbers are there for us to not just understand ourselves, but also to grow. The grit and grind involves looking at the hard parts of ourselves that we don’t want to see. It means peeling back the layers and seeing the unconscious motivations that we may not even be aware of that are driving our behaviors. Not only is this an opportunity to acknowledge our need for growth, but a way to actually push toward that growth in a very real way. The grace part is where we realize who we are and give ourselves the grace to accept ourselves on our journey.
Understanding Ourselves and Others
The beauty of the Enneagram is that it looks at the reasons behind our actions and develops a framework of our personality. On the surface, our actions may be the same, but the internal why and motivation behind our fears and desires is what defines our Enneagram number.
For example, when I was growing up, I learned that if I just kept my opinions, wants, and desires to myself, there was much less conflict in my life. Now, I understand that this personality trait is not who I am, but rather a habit that I adopted to decrease anxiety in my life. Through the Enneagram, I am able to see this framework of my personality as a jumping off point from which I can grow, rather than define who I am.
In addition, the Enneagram is a beautiful tool for us to see others through a new lens, love them better, and develop greater compassion. When we know and understand another individual’s number, judgment disappears because we are able to see the world through their eyes. As humans, we all have certain needs that we try to fill with others’ acceptance, appreciation, recognition, and love. What we forget is that, as children of God, we are already infinitely loved and valued.
I encourage you to dive deeper into your own Enneagram profile and let it empower you to pursue personal growth and appreciation for those around you. It will take “grit and grind” as Beatrice Chestnut says, but remember to give yourself “grace” as you go on this journey of growth.
I have found that the Enneagram has been instrumental in the healing and self-discovery journeys I am honored to witness in my practice. If you have any questions about what the therapy experience looks like or how it could be helpful in your story, please feel free to connect with me.