This September, we are featuring blogs and podcasts centered around the Enneagram. The Enneagram is simply a tool for self-discovery and personal growth based on 9 basic personality types.
I was first introduced to the Enneagram about 5 years ago by a former roommate. I remember I was initially intrigued, as I am by most personality tests, but also felt really overwhelmed. Wings? Triads? Arrows that move from growth to stress? 9 numbers? How will this help me?
I was able to quickly determine I was likely a 2, and then kind of tossed it aside as ‘just another personality test.’ It wasn’t until several years later that the Enneagram resurfaced throughout discussions in my life, and I really started to dig in. I soon found that this tool was unlike any other personality test I had taken before. It gave language to behavior and thoughts I have always had but never knew how to express fully. It’s a tool that has helped me understand myself better and has helped me become more aware of my underlying motivations. It has also helped me become more understanding and empathetic towards others.
As a Type 2, I love to help others and want to feel needed. When I am not looking to Christ for my validation and identity, I equate being needed by others as love. For me that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be physically helping someone (although I will help in that way too if needed)—my natural inclination is to be there for people emotionally. I want to be the friend people feel safe confiding in; the person people know they can count on and who can help them process through real emotions. As a result, I feel like the Lord has had me on a journey the past several years of establishing healthy boundaries with myself and others. He has been teaching me how to say ‘no,’ and how to productively self-care.
I feel a lot of guilt and shame around having to say no to a friend so I can say ‘yes’ to myself. It’s easy for me to focus all of my attention and energy on others’ needs so I can ignore my own brokenness. I am an introvert who often acts like an extrovert because the fear of my friends only liking me because of my ‘yes’ creeps in. The Enneagram has taught me how to be aware of these tendencies and not feel ashamed about admitting a need or emotion.
- It is not selfish to admit when I am angry.
- It is not selfish to admit when someone has hurt me.
- It’s ok to be the person who has to lean on others sometimes instead of always being a shoulder for others.
- It is not selfish to say no to dinner with a friend so I can read a book by myself in my room sometimes.
When I start to feel bad about saying ‘no’ to something that seems like a good thing, I have started asking myself what it is I am sacrificing by saying ‘yes.’ Every ‘yes’ is a ‘no’ to something else. ‘I could go get coffee with that friend I care about, but I was planning on using that time to spend with the Lord.’ ‘I could add another volunteer opportunity to my plate, but that is time I usually set aside to prepare for the week ahead.’ While it’s a good thing to be a consistent and dependable friend to others, I have learned that not everything has to be my responsibility—there has to be a healthy balance. AND THAT IS OK!
Probably about 9 years ago, and long before I had ever even heard of the Enneagram, I remember a close friend gently telling me that I often take on other people’s problems that are not my responsibility and I should just ‘care less’. That didn’t exactly sit well with me. How can I just care less?? A few weeks later we were at a Christian music festival and I saw a guy wearing a shirt with Galatians 6:2 written on the back, ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ I turned to my friend and enthusiastically pointed to the man’s shirt. ‘See! I AM supposed to carry my friends’ burdens!’ Now, clearly I was taking that verse out of context and I would argue that my ‘carrying of others’ burdens’ was coming out of a place of pride—not out of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t my healthiest season of life. But I feel like this story has come to mind so many times in situations where I need to be reminded to check my heart and where my desire to help is really coming from. Is it coming from a place of pride? Am I feeling like I need to prove that I am worthy of love? Or is it coming from a place of genuine generosity and gratefulness because of all that the Lord has done for me?
The reality is if I’m not taking time to take care of myself first, I cannot love others well either. If I had to guess, this isn’t something only Type 2s struggle with. That is something I love about the Enneagram. There are probably characteristics of each type that we can all relate to on some level. It isn’t meant to put us in a personality box, but to help us be more self-aware. So if you struggle with taking on unhealthy responsibility and have a hard time saying ‘no,’ remember your worth does not come from saying ‘yes’ to everything all the time. You are appreciated and loved and wanted by your Heavenly Father and you do not have to do a single thing to earn it.
Want to learn more about the Enneagram? Listen to our MercyTalk Podcast with Beth McCord. Join the conversation on social media! Follow us @MercyMultiplied and let us know your thoughts.