How do I know I've found my "right" Enneagram type?

Thinking that you are one enneagram type when you are actually another - or "mistyping" - is more common than you might think. At first glance the types all have distinctive characteristics, but the complexities of the enneagram model (such as wings, arrows, subtypes, levels of development etc) and the complexities of human individuality mean that you rarely, if ever, fit the stereotype or surface-level description of any type.

What makes the enneagram different from other personality systems is that it is all about core motivations rather than behaviour. It's easy to look at the type descriptions and think "ooh that's a bit like me... I do that sometimes..." about many, if not all, of them. But the core motivations that drive your behaviour, no matter what that behaviour is, will be stable, though it can take a lot longer to figure that out.

Here are some reasons that people might mistype themselves (or others), and tips for how to avoid it:

  1. You've been told you're "such a 3". It isn't just coaches that are in the business of typing people; anyone with a bit of knowledge about the enneagram loves trying to work out what type their friends, family and colleagues are. And that's fine if it leads to genuine curiosity and adaption of communication so that a person is respected and a relationship flourishes. What isn't fine is when people go round telling other people what type they are, and use this to ridicule, manipulate or explain away struggles. It actually isn't OK to tell anyone what their type is full stop because only you can definitively know what your core motivations are. Coaches are good at helping you discover this, but a good coach should never say that they can tell you what you are. The problem is of course that, at least for some of us, other people's perceptions of us are important and become internalised. If someone tells you often enough that you are something, you come to believe it, especially if it's about something like the enneagram where someone could laud their greater knowledge and expertise over you. So yes, other people's knowledge and perceptions can be helpful to you on your journey to discover your type, but these should be given with permission from people who have your best interests at heart, and it's for YOU to weigh things up and think about how it fits with what YOU know about yourself.

  2. You don't fit the stereotype. Everyone is unique, but there are common patterns in how we see and relate to the world that any personality typology is based on, and each core motivation will often lead to a particular range of behaviour. But sometimes a type doesn't look how most people expect it to look. This could be for a range of reasons - perhaps you have a strong influence from one or both of your wings. Perhaps you've had therapy or coaching which has helped you to break unhelpful cycles of responding. Perhaps you've spent so much time in stress or pain that you look and feel more like your stress number. Perhaps you are the countertype of your number. The solution to this isn't a quick and easy one - it's to learn more about the complexities of the enneagram model and reflect more on the different influences on the development of your personality. Coaches and therapists who know the enneagram are particularly helpful here

  3. We all have blindspots: We all have things we don't realise about ourselves. It's true that no one can tell you what type you are because only you know your core motivations, but other people can definitely tell you what you do! In one of my first jobs I worked for someone I found incredibly difficult, and she used to say "You can talk to me about anything, I'm really approachable". None of us thought she was approachable in the slightest, and several things she did and said were completely contradictory to how she said she was. You can want to be a certain way, you can want to come across as a certain way, and that's just not how it is. Now of course, sometimes this isn't about you at all, it's about them. But if everyone else agrees, it probably is about you. We need to get feedback from people that we trust, and who we know love and accept us, so that we can understand ourselves better in relation to other people. This is hard, and sometimes very painful, work. My tip here is to ask people you feel safe with for gentle feedback around a specific issue, tell them you want their kind honesty, and tell them when you want them to stop. Open yourself up to this however much you feel able to, but then take what is said and reflect and process before opening yourself up again.

  4. Denial: We also all have things we don't want to believe about ourselves. One of my favourite enneagram teachers, Suzanne Stabile, says that when she teaches her 'Know Your Number' workshops, she tells people that when they hear the description they really don't want to be them, that's probably their number. Now she doesn't mean that it's actually that simple to find your type, but she knows from years of experience that seeing and accepting the difficult parts of ourselves is really hard - and really important. The enneagram is a model of growth which encourages you to see the wonderful aspects of you, but it also challenges you to face the not-so-nice bits because awareness is the first step towards any change. We tend to judge ourselves more harshly, because we know the darker parts of our own minds and hearts so much more intimately than we know anyone else's. It's also hard to say you are a certain number to others if you don't want them to know everything that goes along with that.

Ultimately, remember that the enneagram is one tool to help you understand yourself better, lean into your potential, and improve your relationships with others. It's not the only one, and there is absolutely no pressure for you to discover your type. If it's feeling like an unhelpful process, shelve it! The idea is that discovering your type should lead to action; we are supposed to use this information for growth, but growth is hard and you need to be in a place where you feel able to put some of this into practice. If you are, don't feel any pressure to rush it. Our whole lives should be a long journey of discovering more about ourselves, and whilst strongly relating to a type can suddenly unlock a lot of realisation, there's a lot further to go after that! Keep being curious and self-compassionate.

Create your website for free!