The journey to discovering our Enneagram type isn’t always straight and narrow. Life stage, the expectations of others, and forces of socialization can confuse us as we try to dig down to our core. I’m writing this post to help you understand a little more about the nuances that influence us when we are trying to identify our types.
If you’re type doesn’t shout your name initially, don’t be discouraged. Many people, including myself, go through a process of “trying on” different numbers. With some self-observation and reflection, they can change their minds a few times before finally settling on their type. The journey of self-discovery in the Enneagram begins with simply trying to figure out what type we are by examining the depths of our inner longings, motivations, and fears. This can’t all be done in a day.
*As I describe my journey of discovering my type below, I’m including a few affiliate links to books that have helped me in my process. If you purchase a product using my link, a small percentage of the profits will help support this blog at no additional cost to you. To find out more, visit my disclosure policy.
The Journey of Discovering my Type
My own journey of discovering that I am a 4 has been quite winding. I started out taking a test and tested as a 4. But I didn’t fully resonate with the description because I focused on what I thought I needed to look like on the outside to be a 4 instead on how much the description resonated with in my internal world. I didn’t understand the Enneagram fully when I was first introduced to it. Because I tested with a 3 wing, and felt I looked more like a 3, I explored that type to see if it was a better fit. But while I looked like a 3 on the outside, the internal experience of the 3 didn’t ring true.
Eventually, I purchased a copy of Richard Rohr’s book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. That’s when I began to learn more about the Enneagram itself and its design. I read this book while I was in the thick of motherhood with a needy, demanding toddler and a newborn. When I read about type 1 I immediately resonated with the anger of the 1 because of my life stage. I also resonated with the values of a 1: hardworking, integrity, good morals, etc. In a lot of ways, these values make up a good part of my identity. But what I failed to realize was that they are ultimately not at the core of my motivation in life.
While I believed I was a 1, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the 4’s internal reality rang so true for me. I continued to listen to podcasts about the Enneagram and I always felt a connection and understanding with many of the type 4’s. As I got to know the type 1, I eventually realized that I don’t display anger in the same way that most 1’s do.
How Understanding the Subtypes Helped me Identify my Type
Finally, I read Beatrice Chestnut’s book, The Complete Enneagram, and learned about the subtypes of the 4 (there are three subtypes for every type, read more about them here and here). I learned that one of the subtype 4’s often look a lot like 1’s & 3’s externally. A light bulb pinged! I finally understood the finer subtleties of my type and was able to understand how and why I am a type 4.
So yes, I have come full circle. And while perhaps I could have trusted the test initially, I think that my ensuing journey of self-exploration has been invaluable. Because we all identify in some way with all the types, the lessons of each type can still be applicable. Thinking I was a type 1 helped me to work on my own perfectionistic tendencies and learn to integrate play and relaxation in my life that I also need as a type 4.
If you are also feeling equally stuck between two types or having a hard time understanding which type you fit in, I highly recommend learning about the subtypes. Check out Chestnut’s book or take this test at the Enneagram Institute to discover your subtype.
Keep These Things in Mind as You Find your Type
A few more things to keep in mind as you take the test or read through the type descriptions:
- Think about how yourself as you’ve acted, felt, and thought over the course of your whole life, especially as it pertains to what you were like in your early 20s. As we get older we learn how to be more flexible. We have grown a bit from some of the things that got us stuck as children and so our types may be obscured as we get older. In our early 20s our survival modes are clearly set in place. We haven’t been too far from home yet.
Consider how your life stage affects the way you perceive yourself and what type you might be. Because I was in the thick of motherhood with two little kids, I felt a lot of anger. I easily slipped into thinking that I was a 1.
Consider how your parents, your culture, your church or social affiliations have affected how you think about yourself. Try to tease out their influence in your life. Many Christian women mistake themselves as 2’s because by and large, the Church has socialized Christian women in the way of the 2 by emphasizing service, helping, and loving the neighbor.
I hope this post has helped you tease out some of the factors that can prevent us from discerning our type. Now we will begin to explore each type in more depth and hear from people who identify with each type. Hopefully this will put flesh and bones on the types for you more than theoretical ideas ever can. To stay in the loop with our conversation on the Enneagram, subscribe below.