Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. – The Queen B, Miss Brené Brown
I’ve been living in a haze of thoughts, emotions, questions, and revelations lately. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. I’ve felt dizzy with excitement. I’ve exhaled big breaths of stress that I didn’t even realize I’d been carrying. And stunningly, most of all, I’ve found pieces of myself that I never fully realized I possessed.
This post is not easy to write, for two reasons. One, it’s technically difficult to untangle the wild web of thoughts in my brain and translate it all here in a cohesive and coherent manner. And two, this post is going to require some serious vulnerability. Have I considered not writing this post? Sure I have. But the thing is, I believe in courage. I believe in showing up and allowing myself to be seen. Not because I’m an ego manic, pompous, self centered, know-it-all.
Truth be told – this is just where I’m at, and this is what I’m supposed to do.
Does that sound unbelievably strange to you? Don’t worry, it does to me too. Sometimes I write blog posts or Instagram posts (aka mini blog posts) and then I feel incredibly embarrassed. I know that I’m just human and fully flawed and still growing and all that. So who am I to share my thoughts and journey with you?
Well, that’s just it. I, am me.
I’m a writer. I’m a thinker. I’m an experiencer. And at my heart of hearts, I’m a relator. I understand my world through my experiences and my relationships. And sometimes, I can get really stuck in my head about those things. I worry how I’m perceived by you. I worry that no one cares and that I should just give up all ready. I worry that the words I share are unformed, naive, idealistic, or maybe even just wrong. Irrelevant. Hyperbole.
But this is the problem. I know that I am a writer. I know that I understand my world through writing, and furthermore, I know that writing and sharing my words is a part of what makes me, me. I can’t explain it. I can’t really justify it – to myself least of all. And when I try to explain or justify or gather enough public approval, it just yields enough false security until I experience the next wave of doubt. Who I am and what I’m to do must come from a deep place of knowing. But that knowing is so much harder than I ever realized.
You see, up until recently, I would have told you that I have a good understanding of who I am. I would have said that I’ve worked through some hang-ups and insecurities and finally started to come into my own.
And in many ways, that’s still true. Except for the ways that it isn’t.
I realize I’ve misunderstood myself. I’ve misidentified myself. I’ve misdiagnosed some of my feelings. And all of this has led me to believe some things about myself that, well, frankly just aren’t true.
It’s been a startling and somewhat earth shattering realization. I don’t mean what I’ve been learning has made me feel bad, but it’s is a little unsettling to realize you’ve built an understanding of who you are based on things that aren’t real, and aren’t you. It’s caused me to do a lot of thinking, praying, feeling, asking, receiving, talking, and processing. All the things.
Bottom line. I realize I’ve formed an identity around my insecurities. My insecurities, like yours, are glaring. Obvious. It’s not too difficult to identity them. The problem is not that I identified them, but that I literally identified with them.
But of course, the truth of who I am has always been held in contrast and tension with these insecurities. This, I believe, is why I’ve felt such a sense of yearning and – for lack of better words – a sense of loss – for most of my life. I identified as one person, but who I really was on the inside kept longing for something different.
A few months ago, I shared with you guys that my husband and I were using the enneagram to help us better understand each other and ourselves. (You can read that post, here.) Since then, I’ve also taken my Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator, and that, combined with more reading on the enneagram, has given me some powerful and practical insight into both myself and my husband. (If you are new to the enneagram and curious about how it all works, I’ll include a little crash course at the end of this post.)
I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve learned a lot about the power of insecurities to shape one’s idea of self.
I recently wrote a post where I talked about the importance of truly understanding yourself – how you are hardwired, what makes you tick, your struggles and strengths – in order to understand God. (That post, here.) You can’t start to understand what it is you are supposed to do with your life if you don’t first understand WHO you are, and the search for who you are will always point you back to who made you. Anyways, check out that post if that sounds interesting to you. The thing I’m working through right now, is the recent, mind blowing discovery that I’m not a five on the enneagram, I’m a seven.
Side note, I read that almost NO ONE would confuse themselves for a five when they are really a seven, but there you have it. Me in a nutshell, lol.
When I first discovered the enneagram, I tested highest as a 5. I resonated with fives desire to be capable and competent. I resonated with fives preoccupation with thoughts and visionary outlook. And I especially resonated with fives need to turn ideas on their heads and look at them from new angles. I also resonated with fives particular brand of anxiety. (I too shut down and appear extremely calm when anxious.)
But then there were all these five pieces that didn’t fit, and I couldn’t figure out why.
That’s when I took the Meyers Briggs Personality Type Indicator and discovered that I’m an ENTP. I had never thought of myself as an extrovert before, partially due to the fact that I was working with an inaccurate definition of extroverts (it has nothing to do with being talkative, outgoing, or always wanting to be around people), and partially because I was working with an inaccurate view of myself.
I was reading through some of the amazing Instagram posts that Beth McCord creates for Your Enneagram Coach and a lightbulb suddenly went off. I wasn’t resonating with a single post written for enneagram Type 5. Instead, every single post written for enneagram Type 7 cut me right to the core:
Helpful Insights for Type 7 – Situations that can upset me and lead to conflict: Being told to do boring or mundane tasks. Others not taking me seriously or dismissing my grand visions. Criticism towards me that does not seem founded or just. Being asked to or forced to deal with painful, uncomfortable, or negative emotions. Not being given the freedom to be me.”
How to show me love: Give me companionship, affection, and freedom. Engage with me in stimulating conversation and laughter. Listen to my stories and grand visions. Accept me the way I am. I don’t like to be told what to do or to be restricted. Be enthusiastic and spontaneous with me. Please remind me to “savor” the present moment since I’m typically looking forward to the next exciting event. (Cut to the post I wrote just last year about trying to thrive less and savor more, lol. Here)
(taken from My Enneagram Coach, via Instagram)
ho-ly moly. That is the sound of my mind being completely blown. That is me, 100%. Not the me based on how I behave in certain situations. The me on the inside. The core of who I am.
So how did I misidentify the first time I took the enneagram?
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and really trying to get at the root of why I missed the mark so widely when it came to identifying who I am.
Ultimately, I realized I’ve lived most of my life by crafting a personality built around insecurities. I understood myself through the lens of my insecurities. My behavior spawned from my insecurities. And as a result, who I was and who my insecurities said I was were constantly in tension.
Whew. It’s been a lot to unpack, let me tell you. I’ve struggled with this tension and this mental and emotional juggling act that I’ve been performing for most of my life, but it’s somehow easy to stay in that confusion than do the work it requires to move through it and away from it in a healthy manner.
But it’s work that is worth the struggle.
For most of my life, I’ve longed to be around people. I love LOVE people. I love my friends. I love excitement and adventure and simulating conversation and laughter. And I know, I know. Lots of people love those things. But I THRIVE off of them. I constantly seek them out and feel lost and empty without them. I love creative thinking and engaging in a healthy argument that seeks to come at a new idea from all angles. I want to explore and taste and smell and I want to EAT EVERYTHING ON THE MENU. And I love thinking about the future. I’m not detail oriented, so much as just thinking-thinking-thinking about what’s next.
One thing that I found super interesting to me is that each enneagram type has a list of strengths but also, a fatal flaw. Type 7’s fatal flaw is gluttony. Want to know something suuuuper ironic?
My favorite quote from like, forever comes from Dawn Powell, one of my favorite authors. She writes: A capacity for going overboard is a requisite for a full-grown mind. That quote has been on my facebook bio since I created the page yearrrrrs ago. Lol. You guys. It’s so funny to me. This explains why I want allll the coffee. Why I tear into my photos from the photo lab before I’ve even left the grocery store. Why I will be in the middle of a party, talking to one person, but my mind is pinging with excitement because there are all these other people to talk to, too! I’m all or nothing, go big or go home.
I view it as a positive sign that I misidentified as a Type 5. A Type 7 moves towards a Type 5 in health. So it’s encouraging to me that, though I initially misidentified myself, I really think it’s because I’ve been doing some intentional work to get to the core of who I am and who God has made me to be. For example, when I wrote my blogpost about why it’s important to adventure with my kids, that was based on the assumption that I was a Type 5 and needed activity to get out of my head. There could still be some truth to that, but mostly, I think I need activity because I’m a type 7! I think it terms of experiences. I’m curious and adventurous and I bring that attitude with me to motherhood. This is not a sign that something is wrong. Rather, that something is very, very right.
And here is where the real breakthrough came for me.
I’ve been mislabeling and misdiagnosing excitement for anxiety.
Those butterflies. That tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. The sweaty pits and quickened breath. The inability to focus. The nerves. All my life those feelings have swooped in at the very moment I’m about to do something that I now realize is hardwired into me to not just DO – but enjoy – and the thing that has kept me from realizing that has been my belief that I’m an anxious, socially overwhelmed, intimidated person.
All these year. All those lies. All those faulty beliefs that have kept me from walking into a crowded room where I didn’t know anyone, or walking into an unknown situation, or trying a new thing. I built an identity – an entire understanding of who I am – around those misinterpreted feelings. And that has held me back from not only being who I really am, but experiencing life as I’m meant to experience it.
I heard recently that anxiety is the thing you feel when you refuse to feel your current emotion(s). So in a way, maybe there was a bit of truth to my anxious feelings, but it’s only because I didn’t accurately assess the situation. I didn’t say to myself, “You are feeling those butterflies because this is new and exciting. Embrace it! Go for it, girl!”
Instead of allowing those emotions to rise up and process them knowing that no matter what, I will be ok with what happens next – I shut down and resorted to anxiety. Instead of allowing myself feel afraid because I was about to do something new or exciting, I told myself that fear meant I was anxious. Fear meant no. And that process led me to form some opinons of myself that I’ve carried with me for 33 freaking years.
Today, I’m realizing that I’m far less anxious and far less insecure and far less scared then I ever realized. Those feelings are real, so don’t hear me say that they aren’t.
What I’m saying is that insecurity is just fake news.
It’s not real, unless I believe it’s real.
Confident people are simply the people who don’t attach so much meaning to an outcome. They aren’t the people who walk into situations knowing they can crush it out of the park – that would be arrogance, not confidence. No, confident people are the ones that know they will be ok no matter the outcome of what they are about to experience. They will remain confident in how they feel about themselves, win or lose.
I’ve cut myself off from SO many experiences that I longed for simply because I believed I wasn’t confident. I believed I couldn’t handle the emotions of new experiences and unpredictable outcomes.
Now, I realize that I feel fear and nerves when I’m about to do something stimulating, and I want to do stimulating things. The trick is to allow myself to feel those feelings, rather than shut them down and let anxiety to take over. Once I feel those feelings, I can remind myself that those emotions are a natural part of doing new and fun things. Those emotions are a reminder that I’m about to DO something. And it’s important to me to do stuff.
Because, I’m a Type 7.
I’m “extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical” but also sometimes “over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined.” I “constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go.” I sometimes “have problems with impatience and impulsiveness.” When I’m at my best, I focus my “talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.” (source)
Heyyyy girl. Nice to meet ya. Let’s get to know each other better.
If you are new to the enneagram, here are a few basics to get you started, as well as links to helpful sites and free tests to figure out your enneagram type.
Basically, the enneagram is a set of nine distinct personalities, and we were all born with a dominant type. You can take a free enneagram assessment, here, and you can read more about the enneagram and each type, here. Another site, Your Enneagram Coach, also offers a free assessment and includes faith based information on how to understand your number. Additionally, their Instagram feed is FULL of helpful posts.
Once you know your number, you can read more about your type. From there, based on your number, you will have two wings. These are simply the numbers on either side of your number. Your wings inform your number with varying degree from person to person.
In addition to your enneagram number and your wings, you will have a number that you go towards in growth and similarly, in times of stress. That is what the lines on the enneagram indicate. Here is the breakdown for growth and stress:
The Direction of Growth
*This means that in times of growth, a 1 goes towards a 7, a 7 goes towards a 5, and so on and so forth.
The Direction of Stress
*This means that in times of stress, a 1 goes towards a 4, a four goes towards a 2, and so on and so forth.
Once you know your number, you can start to really dive deep into better understanding they “why” behind some of your behavior. And perhaps even MORE helpful, you can learn more about why you get along so well with some people, and the “why” behind your struggle with others
Long story short, the enneagram gives me practical information that illuminates why I do what I do, while highlighting my strengths and potential weaknesses. (It also shows you how to leverage your weaknesses into strengths and grow your strengths.)
Specifically, my husband and I recently went through this article that showed us what each of our types bring to our relationship in terms of strengths and potential trouble spots. This information was ILLUMINATING and crazy accurate. GET OUT OF OUR HEADS, enneagram.
Seriously though, I was laughing to the point of crying when I read the description of how 7’s and 3’s relate to one another because it was as if someone came over and just observed us for a week and then wrote this article. It had us dead to rights. It explained so much and really put words to some of our struggles. And really, isn’t that half the battle? Just trying to put your finger on what it is exactly that bugs you/hurts you/gets on your nerves?
Understanding the enneagram has been a fun and helpful tool for me personally and relationally. But it is just that – a tool. It’s meant to guide you as you seek to better understand yourself and those around you.
Also, another helpful point, and super relevant to today’s post, is this answer to the question, “Don’t people’s personalities change all the time?: Most often, what changes is one’s understanding of the personality one had all along. Major life changes most often involve discovery of inner strengths, and admission of weaknesses, that one actually had all along.” (source) So as you dive into the enneagram, think long term. Think about your reactions as a kid. Your desires. Your responses. Your core values and preferences. Sometimes, when I got caught up on a question, I would just think through how 10 year old me would have answered.
Hope that helps! Feel free to let me know your thoughts, comments, and own experiences with the enneagram, Meyers Briggs, or other personal discovery tool!