Have you ever heard of the term “self awareness”?
Terms like this used to make me feel weird. It sounds like some crazy, out there woo woo hippie idea, right?
It’s not though. It really just means having a clear understanding of your personality, why you have the thoughts that you do, why you respond in certain ways, roots of your behavior and emotions, and also recognizing those things in others. It allows you to understand why you get along with certain personalities, while others drive you bonkers, why certain tiny things make you so angry, what will truly make you happy, or to simply have more empathy for those around you.
For example, have you ever listened to a friend rant about an argument, while you were internally thinking, “how is this even a big deal? I don’t understand the problem?” or when you have a joking, sarcastic relationship with one friend, but another might get horribly defensive and break down crying when you thought you were just kidding around. Why things like a messy, disorganized house can lead one person to a breaking point, while another seems completely oblivious to things like crumbs on the counter or a massive, messy stack of laundry. Or why some people just can’t get a handle on their emotions, while some seem to have no emotion at all.
There’s actually a reason people are this way, and when you understand it, understand where they’re coming from, and why you react in certain ways to them, it will change your life forever.
My mother is an extremely self-aware person, I have come to realize that this is something she instilled in me completely without my knowledge.
One thing that made me come to this realization recently was our shared interest in something called The Enneagram. Which is essentially (based on my still very limited, newfound knowledge) a personality-typing system. (Another one you may be familiar with is Myers-Briggs, a popular personality test used in the corporate world. If you’ve heard someone say they’re an “ENFP or ENFJ” that’s Myers-Briggs.)
My mom and I are kind of psychology dorks like that. We’re into that stuff.
Anyway, this was just another small nerdy thing we used to talk about from time to time–but then I heard this episode on The Lively Show (as you know, my favorite podcast) and it sparked my renewed interest in it!
You guys, it’s totally fine-tuned my perspective on life, my relationships, everything. In particular, my relationship with Neal. We rarely ever fight, but like any couple, we obviously have our tiffs, and once we figured out which “type” we were, we gained a much better understanding of why we are the way we are.
So, if you’re still reading and ready to nerd out for me, here’s the gist of The Enneagram:
What is The Enneagram?
Think of the Enneagram as a map, which is comprised of 9 different personality types, which you generally come into the world with. Everyone will see a bit of each type in themselves, but only have one dominant personality type. Each of these types comes with a range of attitudes and behaviors, without specifying anything either positive or negative. I.E. If you are a type “1” that is no better or no worse than a type “8”.
How can it help you?
By identifying your type, your strengths, weaknesses become very apparent, as does your reason for certain behaviors. This knowledge is extremely useful when understanding how you interact with others. When you know others types, you know how to approach certain situations, and it can drastically improve your relationships.
How can I identify my type?
They have free tests online, however, I don’t believe they’re very accurate. Instead, I found an app that I really love, that isn’t really a “test” so much as it’s a way for you to come to your own conclusion. (When you download it, first navigate to the “find your type” section, and go through the flashcards.) I personally found this to be more accurate than the online test. Some things to keep in mind:
You can only be one type. So choose the descriptive factors that sound the most like you, knowing that you’ll likely identify with some parts of each type.
This is very introspective. It’s going to point out flaws and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself. If you mis-categorize your type, this isn’t going to help you at all.
If you aren’t sure, go through the flash cards as many times as you need to come to a conclusion, but make sure not to second-guess yourself.
How can I use it to improve myself?
By identifying your type, you’ve already done yourself a huge favor by just having a better understanding of yourself psychologically. Based on your personality type (again, which you can identify with this app), “areas of development” will become very apparent, and there are certain actions you can take to develop yourself more in these areas.
For example, if you’re a type 9, you generally dislike tension, confrontation, and always seek to get along with everyone. A development area can be to speak up more–to voice your opinion even when you anticipate opposition.
How can I use it to improve my relationships with others?
Once you know your type, and the types of others in your life, you can better understand how to meet their needs, how to avoid conflict with them, and how both of you can work to make each other better. There’s even a section of the app (referenced above) that gives you a description of how you’ll likely interact with each of the other types, as well as suggestions as to how you could improve relationships with them. When I read the description of type 3 and type 7 (Neal’s type and my type) we were both absolutely shocked at how accurate it was.
For example, identifying my type and Neal’s type has brought a lot more clarity to our arguments–what tips each of us off, and how to avoid them all together. It allowed me to understand those personality differences between friends I referenced in the beginning!
Wouldn’t you love to know how someone is always going to react in a given situation? This actually makes it possible! (So cool!) The more familiar you are with the 9 types, the easier it will be to pinpoint what type your friends, coworkers, family, or partner is.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope you’re inspired to check this awesome tool out for yourself. A book I also purchased was The Enneagram Made Easy–a really fun, easy to understand book on the topic with lot’s of funny and cute illustrations.