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How We Can Use the Enneagram as a Tool for Self-Growth

It seemed as though everyone was taking the Enneagram test at the beginning of the pandemic. As we were all trapped inside with nothing to do but look at our phones, the Enneagram test reemerged as an exciting activity. It provided a topic of conversation and allowed us to connect with friends to discuss the new trend.

The Enneagram test is a model that assigns you a number, one through nine, which corresponds to a personality type. The test is based on the idea that everyone has a prevailing personality that reflects childhood development and experiences, both conscious and unconscious. While you may find a little bit of yourself in each type, ultimately, everyone has one dominant type which is seen via test results. 

In addition to being assigned a number, you will usually get a rundown of your designated personality. Depending on the website you visit, the descriptions of each type can vary. However, most websites follow the same pattern of describing each type’s motivations, desires, fears, etc.

Though the Enneagram test has never been validated by scientific evidence, many still find it applicable to their lives. The Enneagram is commonly grouped with assessments such as Meyer-Briggs and astrological horoscopes as it is based on sorting people into categorical descriptions that are more culturally or spiritually based rather than scientific. 

Experts in the field of personality psychology commonly find the Enneagram as a flimsy and unreliable approach to understanding your personality. However, if we step back from looking at the Enneagram as a scientific measure and accept its flaws, we can use the test and concepts presented by the Enneagram personalities to work towards self-growth and more deeply connect with ourselves. 

An example of a personality result is Type Two, also known as “The Helper”. They are considered empathetic, sincere and warm-hearted. Their desire is to feel loved while their fear is the opposite, being unwanted or unloved. They are motivated by their want to be loved, needed and appreciated and therefore at their best become “deeply unselfish, humble, and altruistic,” according to the Enneagram Institute

While the personality descriptions are generalizations that attempt to encompass a wide range of personal experiences, this information is the perfect tool for self-growth and self-actualization. Self-actualization is defined as the process of fully realizing one’s potential. Self-actualization comes from the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as the highest point after one has achieved the basics, like food and shelter. To achieve self-actualization, one of the first identifiable steps is accepting ourselves as who we are, flaws included. This may also be followed by recognizing limits and focusing on strengths, other factors we can obtain from the Enneagram.

Reaching self-actualization isn’t like checking off a list, but instead going through a process that promotes mindfulness and self-growth. The Enneagram can be a great tool to begin the journey and learn about yourself. Research is continuing to show the process of self-actualization is linked to greater well-being including positive relations, personal growth and purpose. 

As we are still working through this pandemic and access to mental health and self-care mechanisms are limited, think about taking your Enneagram. It’s not for everyone nor a substitute for seeking a medical professional, but it may lead to some personal discoveries that can help you through these tough times.

Grace Musilli

American '23

Grace Musilli is a second year student at American University majoring in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG). She is also part of Politics, Policy, and Law (PPL), a three year scholars program, as well as the School of Public Affairs Leadership program. Grace is passionate about education equality and justice among other issues like womxns' rights and the environment. She is currently a Feature Writer for HCAU and located in Washington D.C.
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