The Enneagram: An instruction manual on self-discovery


Infographic courtesy of Creative Commons

I remember back in fifth grade when McMillen Health came to the elementary schools to give “the talk”–that is to teach about deodorant and mood swings and all the fun that comes along with growing up. 

But what they didn’t tell us was that growing up can be confusing. 

One day you look in the mirror and aren’t sure who it is looking back at you. Sure you might have had a glow up and, yes, maybe that pimple is causing some self-esteem issues but the confusion is deeper than the physical appearance of the person staring back at you. 

They say high school is about finding yourself and I suppose that’s true, but it’s not as though they give you directions to figure it out. 

So consider the Enneagram the instruction manual you never got. 

It is essentially a personality test that categorizes individuals into nine distinct groups, based on the basic fears, thoughts, tendencies, and ambitions that lie at the foundation of one’s character. 

As society continues to step away from labels and sorting people into “bins,” this concept of the Enneagram may seem like a counterproductive branch of self-discovery, but since learning about the Enneagram, taking the test, and studying the characteristics and motivators of my personality type, I’m starting to better understand the impossible puzzle that is “finding myself.” 

I can remember the first time I took the test and read the characteristics of the type four personality I was categorized into. I felt like I was reading my own words scribbled on the pages of the many journals shoved under my bed.

It was unashamedly me–the good, the bad and, yes, even the ugly. 

But the Enneagram isn’t only your personalized self-help book, it’s also that invaluable relationship advice from your ever-wise grandma. 

In the thick of my new-found love for this personality test, I, of course, got my friends and family to take it. From my loyal, yet anxious type six friend to my spontaneous, yet scattered type seven cousin, I’ve been better able to put myself in their shoes and see situations from their perspectives.

Social media has helped catapult the Enneagram’s popularity as platforms like Instagram and even TikTok send users fleeing to the website to take the test. The band Sleeping At Last even made an entire album dedicated to the Enneagram, titled “Atlas” with one song written for each of the nine personality types in mind. 

While an enriching and educational tool, the Enneagram isn’t the Slader of self-discovery or the Photomath of friendship drama. It won’t magically answer the question of who you are and it won’t mend that broken relationship. 

But it’s a start.