Don’t judge an Enneagram by its cover…
Seems pretty basic, but it’s a hard rule to follow! As a lover of the Enneagram and its ability to help me understand where people are coming from, I’ve sometimes tripped over this pothole, and seen others tumble, too. We’ve all heard it. Anyone in circles that discuss or use the Enneagram is probably familiar with this scene:
Jane’s friend wants to set her up on a blind date. While her friend starts describing this fantastic guy, Jane asks, “What’s his Enneagram type?”
“Oh, he’s an Eight.”
Jane wrinkles her nose. “An Eight? Uh oh…I knew an Eight. He was the worst.”
. . .
Domineering. Intense. Maybe a little intimidating, a rebel with an outlaw mentality, always itching for a fight. Such are the stereotypes I’ve often heard about Eights. There are stereotypes for every number on the enneagram, but I’ll paint some pictures of the potholes that show up most for people on my road. As a Seven with an Eight wing, I’ve found myself so pinned down by people’s expectations of my personality that there’s not much breathing room for me to show my real self.
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Eights are the bad guys in movies; Sevens are the airheads who’d rather drag you to a party to blow off your woes than sit with you in a tough time. Sevens aren’t supposed to be empathetic, so new friends expecting me to be the constant Energizer Bunny get surprised when I’d rather hear about how hard their day was, or ask them to drop their fake smile and be real with me.
As a Seven with an Eight wing, I’ve found myself so pinned down by people’s expectations of my personality that there’s not much breathing room for me to show my real self.
I’m expected to be shallow, but I’m actually way more into deep conversations than ones that skim the surface. I’m expected to be a fighter, but I can’t always stand up for myself and feel embarrassed when someone says, “That’s what an Eight is best at! Why not?”
Once something’s been around long enough, stereotypes start to grow. Enough rain, enough traffic through the same spot, and a pothole forms. But not every wheel travels over the same patch of ground.
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No two Sevens are the same. No two Eights, no two Ones, no two Fours. The enneagram might be a useful roadmap to show where a person might be coming from, but people come in all shapes and sizes. So do enneagram types. The cover of the map doesn’t reveal the colorful details of the scenery sketched inside. That scenery has to be seen, and can only be seen by the traveler who sticks to the road for the whole journey.
The Enneagram is a fantastic tool to help map out your own shortcomings, strengths and potholes to fix. But immediately assuming specifically-shaped potholes in others before ever walking their road is a dangerous path to start down. Who wants to be judged by a generic cover? Especially when we all have contents as richly unique as the paths we’ve traveled to get them.
What’s your Enneagram type? Let us know in the comments below!
Tiffany is a fiction author from Oregon transplanted in Southern California, whose addiction to sunshine and learning new cultures has led her on harebrained adventures all over the globe. When not running barefoot through muddy ravines, she writes sci-fi and suspense novels under the pen name T.D. Fox.
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