While I was on The Practical Minimalists podcast to talk about the Enneagram last month, I noticed how often I said a type needed to "learn to be." Sometimes it was followed by a particular quality or lesson but often it was the literal state of being. While each type has its own driving need, it also has a pathway for growth which entails us shedding our fears.
When we decide not to listen to our fear anymore, we can begin recognizing we don't need to hide behind a mask in order for people to love and accept us as we are.
We can be ourselves. Fully.
I usually describe the Enneagram this way:
The Enneagram is made up of nine types which are oriented around root struggles. Each type has a corresponding great gift, the yin to their struggle’s yang. The goal of the Enneagram is that as we grow, we will embody more of our type's positive qualities and less of the negative qualities. We will be able to be our best, healthiest selves.
(Not sure what I'm talking about? Read this overview.)
As we embody more of our type's strengths, we're also learning to accept ourselves. And each type does this differently.
Our root struggles happen because of our insecurities and fears. Some types run toward people, while others want to hide. Some types focus on "work" (not necessarily their job) while others center around their image. Some want to keep the peace while others strike first and ask questions later. We may not all care what other people think about us but on a subconscious level, we're all curating the person we want others to see.
It's exhausting. Our driving need to be needed, to be perfect, to avoid, and so on takes a lot of energy, whether or not we're aware of the pattern.
Consider how you respond to the words "need" and "be." "Need" suggests some kind of hunger and the lengths we'll go to alleviate it. In contrast, my body almost relaxes at the thought of "be" or "being." It's serene and peaceful. It's a breath of fresh air.
You can also think of "being" as "resting." When we are truly ourselves, we are at rest with ourselves. We accept ourselves and that often means (other healthy) people accept us, too.
So how do we learn how to be? Let's take a look at each type.
Type One: The Need to Be Perfect
Ones have a driving need to live their life the Right Way. Their idea of the Right Way, that is. This results in overly high expectations for themselves and for others. Ones are their own worst critic and constantly review their actions and thoughts for how they stack up against their ideals.
Healthy Ones recognize and accept imperfections and mistakes are a part of life. Erring doesn't mean they're bad or defective. They accept themselves, imperfections and all. They trust their loved ones will do the same.
Type Two: The Need To Be Needed
Twos are driven to be close to others but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They see themselves as loving, well-intentioned people and believe they know what's best for everyone around them. But beneath that is the fear they're unworthy of being loved.
Healthy Twos recognize they don't need to help everyone else in order to be loved. They can help others for others' sake and put up boundaries where appropriate. They can prioritize their own needs. They can trust they are enough.
Type Three: The Need To Succeed
In their quest to succeed, Threes identify with a particular self-image they believe is more acceptable than their authentic selves; they can grow out of touch with who they are and what they really want. They become more concerned with doing or being whatever they believe will make them feel worthwhile, which can lead to a cycle of workaholism and competitiveness. No achievement is ever quite enough.
Healthy Threes realize the most important thing is to be their true selves. They don't have to earn love and acceptance through their achievements. They can rest in who they are.
Type Four: The Need To Be Special
Fours want to avoid ordinariness. They fear they have no identity or personal significance and expend a lot of energy curating the image they present to the world, one which shows everyone just how different and unique they are. They constantly compare themselves to others, seeing where they fall short.
Healthy Fours know there's nothing wrong with being ordinary. In fact, they find freedom in no longer defining themselves by how different they are. They can rest in the knowledge there's nothing wrong with them. They already have everything they need to be loved and accepted.
Type Five: The Need To Perceive
Fives guard their time, energy, and intellectual property like none other. They want to know and understand everything, in part to be self-sufficient but also to avoid looking foolish. This can lead to isolation and a lack of self-care.
Healthy Fives understand they already have what they need. They recognize how their single-minded focus in amassing knowledge or expertise can wind up keeping their loved ones at bay. They are able to see the world in a new way, one that's filled with possibility and those who care about them.
Type Six: The Need To Be Secure
Sixes are anxious and unsure of how to make decisions, avoid danger, and move forward in life. They need to have certitude and reassurance- from their loved ones and from authority figures. They don't trust their own abilities.
Healthy Sixes are able to accept not knowing the outcome of things. Instead of always scanning the horizon for danger, they become fully present and grounded in the moment. They trust they'll be able to handle the ups and downs of life.
Type Seven: The Need To Avoid Pain
Sevens try to fill up their emptiness with exciting experiences; they can become excessive in every area of life. They have difficulty distinguishing between their wants and needs. They'd rather focus on the next fun thing than deal with painful emotions or circumstances.
Healthy Sevens learn how to become present to their pain in order to move through it. They realize life is a gift and they have more than their fair share of blessings. They know they don't have to be the life of the party to be loved.
Type Eight: The Need To Be Against
Eights are drawn toward intensity and control. They hate feeling weak or dependent and avoid it at all costs. They like to test boundaries and often believe rules were made to be broken.
Healthy Eights know how to be vulnerable with those who love them. They trust people- at least, their loved ones- are not out to get them. They are able to feel deeply benevolent toward themselves, others, and the world.
Type Nine: The Need To Avoid
Nines avoid anything that will upset inner tranquility. They tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. They resist putting out energy to being fully here.
Healthy Nines are empowered to participate dynamically in their lives. They trust people will still care about them when they assert their opinions. They play a powerful role in creating a healing, harmonious environment for themselves and others.
If you take away anything from reading this, let it be this: You. Are. Enough.
You are worthy of love and acceptance simply because you're you.
Working through your type's pitfalls will help you grow into accepting these truths. It's not easy. There's a reason we developed these patterns to protect ourselves, after all. When we let go of our needs, our driving motivations, we open ourselves up to a new way of approaching life and, in return, we can experience a healthier relationship with ourselves and with others.