Inside The Enneagram: How Does My Type Influence Real Life?

Loraena makes her home in Portland, Oregon with her husband, daughters, and rambunctious Schnoodle puppy. Infertility and years of international adoption pursuits left her grieving and overwhelmed by global poverty. A trip to Haiti in 2014 prompted her to do something good with all that grief and now, through Noonday, advocating for at-risk families has become part of her everyday life! In between parenting and Trunk Shows she is also earning a Master’s degree in Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary.

The Enneagram often gets lumped in with other personality or aptitude tests. In my opinion, they each have something unique to offer, though none are comprehensive because we are all unique individuals. I think we often default to assuming other people are different versions of ourselves, but they are not. We each have different experiences and ways of looking at the world. Myers-Briggs helped me understand others better. Strengthsfinder helped me learn to value my gifts – I spent my whole life trying to fit into a concrete, hands-on world, downplaying my intellectual side, and then Strengthsfinder was like, “No, Intellection, Connectedness, and Strategic, and Input are 4 of your top 5 strengths. You should use them.” Wow. I thought those were useless quirks! What if I stop pushing them to the margins? So I still have to live in the real world, but I’ve started trying to live into my philosophical tendencies instead of ignoring them and haven’t looked back.

What’s all this got to do with the Enneagram? I know, I know. Getting there. Dictionary.com defines the Enneagram as, “a nine-sided figure used in a particular system of analysis to represent the spectrum of possible personality types.” In plain English, there are 9 types around a circle. All 9 are related to each other and contrary to what you think, your number doesn’t define you. It does not represent who you are at your core, it simply shows what your default coping mechanism is and how you respond to growth or stress. We all have a level of dysfunction — the Enneagram just reveals the direction your dysfunction takes you. So while Myers-Briggs paints us all in glowingly positive terms, the Enneagram doesn’t really do any of us any favors. But honestly? I think that is one of its biggest appeals! We have limited perspectives of ourselves and tools like the Enneagram help us see our blind spots. We have the opportunity to own up to our weaknesses, ask for help, and grow in our awareness of ourselves.

Sometimes we can be tempted to use the Enneagram as a weapon, “Oh, of course, you would do that – you’re such a (fill-in-the-blank with whatever number is appropriate).” But when we use types to justify ourselves or dismiss each other, we totally miss the point! Noonday’s Ambassador manifesto has a line that says, “When we look across the globe, we don’t see strangers – we see ourselves.” The Enneagram helps with this. When we know our own weaknesses, we have more grace for others. So whether we’re looking across the globe, across town, or across the kitchen table, the Enneagram isn’t meant to separate us from others, it helps us see ourselves more clearly and how connected we all really are.

I thought it would be fun and interesting to talk to people of different types about how the Enneagram helps them with this, so I interviewed a mix of Ambassadors and non-Ambassadors, asking each person, “How does your Enneagram type influence the way you move in the world, particularly in regards to human flourishing? Also, does your type present you with any obstacles to this?” 

Here are their responses:

Kerry Little – Type 1: The Reformer
Noonday Ambassador, fair trade aficionado and world traveler 

Being a one in this world has always meant that I can see a hundred ways to make things better – and because I’m a one with a two-wing, I find myself involved in a lot of activities that help push forward the agenda I feel is right. My Mom would joke when I was a kid that I always seemed to have some sort of pet project. Always involved in a march, a protest, writing to Congress, or attempting to help a friend with a problem. Even when I think something is great, I can find ways that it could be better. It’s been a journey for me to realize that everyone is on their own path and isn’t inherently wrong just because it’s not what I would’ve chosen. Learning to see and be comfortable with grey areas and realizing issues are rarely black or white have helped me to be more empathetic and relaxed.

Kate Nakerud – Type 2: The Helper
Noonday Ambassador, substitute teacher

I like to feel I’m contributing toward a greater good or a bigger purpose. One of the things that drew me to Noonday is the dignified job creation and sustainable income for families around the world.  Contributing towards a greater good and bigger purpose is also part of why I love to teach. A downside is that I sometimes worry I am not doing enough.

Julie Kortenhoeven – Type 3: The Achiever
Noonday Ambassador, teacher/ administrator

I definitely think a powerful thing about being a 3 is that I can read of a room of people really well. It helps me know when my students are having great days or might need something extra. I can also tell when students are perfectionists. I also thought I was a perfectionist, but when reading about being a 3 it finally clicked that I like being loved through praise. I am driven and do more when I get positive feedback. However, that also has its downfalls in that I see my self-worth in how others see me. I want to be the teacher everyone loves, the teacher whose scores are the top so when my students fail, I feel like a failure.

Julia Jenkins – Type 4: The Individualist
Noonday Ambassador, fashion enthusiast, homeschool mom

I love to create and make things beautiful and special for everyone to enjoy. I create a relaxed, beautiful aesthetic inside our home because I want people to feel like they belong. I create looks using fashion and jewelry to not only for myself but to empower other women to wear looks they thought they couldn’t pull off. Everyone has a unique story to tell that can bring them to the place of working for human flourishing. As a Noonday Ambassador, I try to share mine at each of my trunk shows, whether in presentation or as I chat with guests individually. I have had a lot of success, but one of my obstacles is that when I am not reaching my goals,it’s hard to not compare my own experience with the success of others and be discouraged.

Victoria Chiem – Type 5: The Investigator
Friend of Noonday, realtor

Throughout my life, I’ve always been pretty independent and self-sufficient. Curious is definitely a word I would use to describe myself. I often feel the need to learn, especially about life and the world around me. I spend a lot of time observing and my mind rarely stops thinking.

Analisa Jerginen – Type 6: The Loyalist
Noonday Ambassador, counselor turned homeschool mom, military wife

As a six I am loyal and committed to my friendships and my values. Once I determine that something or someone is worth my time, effort, and energies I am in it for the long haul. However, as a six, fear is also a primary motivator, which leads me to be more cautious, always planning for the worst-case scenario. Because I often fear the worst, I don’t step easily into new relationships or ventures. That can sometimes lead to missed opportunities.

Alaina Pompa – Type 7: The Enthusiast
Freelance graphic designer & artist, mentor to young moms

I am honestly excited about other people’s success. I am also optimistic about myself and about my own abilities. An obstacle to success for me is that I am not super detail oriented. I see the big picture and assume the little stuff will get taken care of, but sometimes fail to take the necessary steps. I can also be paralyzed by too many options. Wanting to make THE BEST choice can result in not choosing anything.

Dierdre Guerette – Type 8: The Challenger
Seminary student and co-founder of Be the Change Youth Initiative

For me, the biggest strength of an 8 is determination. 8s have a must-succeed drive that allows me to not get discouraged easily, relying on an inner strength to find fortitude. I am an outspoken individual and I am also very much an advocate for those who don’t have a voice. But my biggest strength is also my biggest weakness. My gifting of being able to challenge people is sometimes seen as a weakness because people don’t always like to be challenged and it’s a very fine line between when it’s a strength and when it’s become a weakness. I want to have the strength of an 8 to persevere in very hard situations and also the discernment to be able to push others to be their best (because I think that’s a huge strength of an 8), but I want to push and challenge in a way that is helpful and not harmful, that builds others up and doesn’t tear down. It’s been a journey for me to learn to not allow my passion and strength to overpower others and damage relationships.

Allie Hinkleman, Type 9: The Peacemaker
Noonday Ambassador & elementary school teacher

I can see the world and different sides of things and not feel like I need to make judgments. Things just ARE. This is a strength and a weakness! It also means I can sit in the status quo a lot and not push for better. At 35, I find myself trying to find MY identity, not the ideas or values of people I love, which has been challenging! I switched jobs a few years ago and felt completely untethered almost like I had no identity. The whole idea that 9s can just fade into the background and not assert themselves can get pretty extreme. Also, I’ve felt a lot of guilt for things I “should” have done.

 

Want to know your type? I recommend taking the full-length RHETI (the short versions are less reliable).

Recommended resources: 

The Typology Podcast

The Sleeping at Last Podcast He is recording an album based on the Enneagram and only the first four songs have been released (featuring types 1-4), but they are incredible! The accompanying podcast discussing the songwriting process for each type is not to be missed!

Books that have been most helpful: 

Discovering Your Personality Type

Understanding the Enneagram