Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

What’s the Big Deal with the Enneagram?

What's the Big Deal with the Enneagram?

“Look at this show-off. If she isn’t an E3, I don’t know who is.”

“I said what I said. #Enneagram8.”

And on and on and on…. or at least that’s how it has seemed in my Instagram feed lately. Finally I thought, “Okay, what gives?”

What Is the Big Deal with the Enneagram, Anyway?

I went and decided to give into this Enneagram thing and find out what the heck this was about. I knew it had to do something with personality types, but I kept seeing so much of it I wondered, Was it really that new? Clearly, I was missing something.

Before I tell you what I discovered I want to first ask you something. Is your Enneagram score what defines you? Is it somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it changeable? Or is it a result of circumstances, experience, and perception? Do we use it as an excuse for our behavior? What good does knowing our Enneagram score even do?

The Enneagram test asks you several sets of questions about how you view life, like:

—Is it important to you to be successful?
—Do you care deeply about what others think of you?
—Do you avoid all negative feelings?
—Do you seek out the positive in everyone?
—Should people follow rules instead of doing what they feel like doing?

Enneagram Results: Pros and Cons

It then calculates a score and spits out a narrative of how you think and how it impacts your behavior. You can get a free snapshot giving you a slight idea of “what you’re like.”

Why Journaling Is The Best Tool For Self-Discovery

Overall, I think personality tests can be helpful. Knowing what you are like can help you to curb some bad behavior and help you have empathy for others. Maybe it will show some weakness that you can work on. But while our culture harps on “be the change you want to see in the world,” few actually become the mantra.

Now, to really dive into my report would take forever. But overall, it typecasts me as an Enneagram 3, which is generally described as “The Achiever.” Now, at first glance it seems like a great little label. And, as I work through my doctorate program, I think this test clearly knows its stuff. But as I read through the report about each little characteristic it found by dissecting each little answer, I feel a bit exposed. Judged, even. It warns me of all the other character traits that I have to watch out for. And… they’re not all wrong.

But is that it? I’m a three and I’m stuck with it? I’m pretty sure when I was 18, I wasn’t a 3. Not even close. I don’t even think I was a 3 at 25. So, when did it happen? The issues that it identified—like my need for security and achievement—where did those come from? I don’t think those were always there. But as we go through life and process through loss and pain and success and failure, we’re changed.

So Are We Stuck with That Score?

The report will make all sorts of connections to your childhood and how “something” made you this way. I’m not sure I agree. I feel like all the big things that made me who I am today happened between 18 and 36. I’m not ready to blame everything on what my parents may or may not have done right when I was little. (Let’s face it, we all learn how to parent on the fly. I’m sure there will be plenty of material for my kids to talk about in therapy one day!)

I think we continue to grow and change as people long after childhood. While those may be formative years, all of our years can be just as formative. Even now, as I near 39 + 1 years old, I am still learning and developing and changing. I am taking ownership for bad traits and trying to become my best self.

So, that leaves two choices:

I can hide behind my report. I can use it to explain away my behavior. I can talk to the world about my personality strengths and weaknesses as if they are unchangeable.

Or, I can understand what moments in life shaped me to think and act the way that I do. By understanding the roots that dictate my thinking, I can slowly start to untangle them and toss out what holds me back. I can find the root of pain that caused my need for security and ask God to heal it. I can find the root of unworthiness and remind myself that those moments don’t take away my value. I can find the root that tells me I need to achieve to be seen and remove it. I can find the root that is so concerned with how people perceive me and toss it out.

Instead I’ll look at this report and use it to spur continued growth, because I’m not done yet…and neither are you.


Your Enneagram score—and whatever may have happened in your past—isn’t the be-all end-all. Here’s how you can change the narrative: Do I Still Have Time to Rewrite My Life Story? with Mandisa – 192

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