What’s funny about the Enneagram types is that most people hate the type they are. A friend of mine told me she was a type six, (The Loyalist) and said, “We are total babies. It’s the worst.” Another friend of mine who is a type two, (The Helper) described Twos as being “The saddest of all the types…”
Some friends of mine were discussing Enneagram one night at my house, so we all decided to take the test. While others were answering the test questions, I looked through the website and clicked on the description, for type three, (The Acheiver). “Gross,” I thought. “Who are these workaholic attention-whores with ‘most politicians’ as their historic example? I can’t stand people like that.”
Guess what I typed as…
TYPE 3: The Achiever/ Performer.
Basic Fear: Of being worthless
Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile
There are plenty of things wrong with my type, namely: our constant need for outside attention & affirmation, our hyper-awareness of how we appear to people, our need to be the best, and the list goes on. For the sake of this post I want to address our core issue, which is this:
We feel worthless outside of what we can accomplish or produce.
In other words, if you call me at the end of my day and ask how it was, I’ll usually say something like, “Great day! I got a lot done,” or “It was alright… wasn’t able to get much done.” I lie in bed at night with a twinge of guilt because – even though it might be midnight – I could have gone back to my studio and worked more. I could have chosen the red pill and burned the midnight oil.
When I wake up, I’m already behind in my day. I could have gotten up earlier and worked out, learned piano, scored a film, worked on my website, solved the issue of human trafficking, cleaned the house…
It doesn't help that I'm in a creative field. A more structured person has boundaries established for them: drive to work at 8 a.m., leave work at 6 p.m. In contrast, as a songwriter/ producer/ artist, you can always be doing something. And since none of this is outlined for me in a disciplined workflow, the result has often been: tired workaholic.
Someone like me will learn at a young age what gets them affirmation from people, and will spend their energy developing that thing. For me, this has been singing. I wonder all the time, if I were stripped away from all of my musical talent and hard work, would anyone love me the same? Would I be sought after the same way I am today with texts, requests, music plans? Would I still be in demand; would I still be wanted?
I went on a rampage after discovering my Enneagram type.
I wanted to watch every educational YouTube video, read every website description… It was like opening out my arms, closing my eyes and biting the bullet, “Ok. Let’s hear it! Tell me what’s wrong with me!”
By no means do I think anyone should hinge their entire identity on what a test tells them. But – hey! If it rings true for you, it can help a lot with self-awareness and furthermore, self-improvement. In my case, IT ALL RANG TRUE: the good, the bad, and the ugly. A lot of it was difficult to face, but it opened my eyes to very serious problems.
I began to realize how much of other people’s opinions I take into account when I make decisions. “What will they think if…?”
If anyone was upset or disappointed in me, I took it way harder than the next person. In fact, I hate it so much that I avoid being a disappointment at all costs. But this only lasts so long… you can’t be everyone’s ideal! I often feel stretched in all different directions.
I looked back on all sorts of situations and understood why I felt (seemingly out of nowhere) that I needed to be the best at whatever I was doing.
I noticed how image-conscious I am.
I acknowledged that for better or for worse, I have an "ON" switch that allows me to just power through things. I'll still get onstage. I'll still go to work. If there's a task at hand, I won't feel what I need to feel; I'll "get the job done," (sometimes to the detriment of my emotional health.)
I need permission to vacate. I need permission to relax. And when it doesn’t come, I feel like a slave to everything that requires my attention.
None of this is logical, of course.
I don’t stand by it when I process it consciously; it’s a pattern I’ve developed through the years.
I was searching for a cure: something to relieve me of all the pressure I put on myself.
I didn’t want to care so much about what people thought.
I didn’t want to be insecure outside of my capabilities.
I came across another YouTube video where a woman named Dr. Deborah Ooten was interviewed about her challenges as a Three. Her message to the people around our type was this:
“Love us for who we are and let us know that that’s true. If you can let us know that you love us whether we’re right or we’re wrong, whether we do something or we don’t do something… If you can encourage us to just be, that helps us so much… just… to be.”
I immediately thought of my loving boyfriend, Chris. Without thinking, I grabbed my phone and typed up these words:
“If I never sang another note for the rest of my life, would you still love me the same?”
Before even pressing send, I broke down crying.
I realized in that moment that it wasn’t a question for Chris.
It was a question for me.
Would I still love me the same? I didn’t know.
I sent the text and Chris didn’t reply but called right then, “What’s wrong, babe?” “I don’t know!” I sobbed/ laughed. I was having a mental breakdown.
“Well… to answer your question…” he said, “Of course. Of course I’d still love you. I tell you all the time – I forget that you sing. I love that you do… but it’s not why I love you. I love you because of your mind. And your soul. And your good heart.”
I cried some more. It was a serious breakthrough for me. I asked a question I’d been harboring deep down for a long time. Thankfully, it received the loving answer I was hoping for and I realized in that moment just how much it meant to me.
Yet while I was so grateful for Chris's gentle way of reassuring me, it would do me no good if I couldn't show myself that same kind of love. If any of you think a romantic relationship will solve all of your identity issues: it won't.
Day by day, I need to demonstrate self-love by regarding my own needs just as kindly as I would someone else's.
Really slowly, I’m learning how to say “no” when I’m just tired and need to simply be. I’m learning how to make choices based on what I need, and not how different groups of people might react to my decision. I’m learning how to focus on my goals and relax into them, rather than being controlled by them 24/7.
Coming to terms with all these things I don’t like about myself was really hard, but it helped me to actually see myself for who I am! And only after I really saw myself could I fully love and accept myself.
"Level 1 (At Their Best): Self-accepting, inner-directed, and authentic, everything they seem to be."
Everyday I try to move closer towards this ideal. While there may be all sorts of things I wish I didn’t struggle with, there is strength that comes with every weakness. I'm learning how to be proud of my strengths, accepting the trade-off that comes with them. I hope someday to be truly authentic, guided by my own thoughts and feelings.
I hope to be able to give myself permission to just be.