Enneagram Breakdown: What Is It and Why You Need to Know About It

Enneagram Breakdown: What Is It and Why You Need to Know About It

Published by Shelby Lavery on 12th Jan 2021

So you’re wondering what the enneagram is and found yourself Googling “what is the enneagram?” which landed you here, and we’re so happy to have you! In this article, we’re going to cover what the enneagram is, how to find out what your enneagram type is, and why it matters.

What is the Enneagram?

The enneagram as it exists today is “a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions” but is based on the original system created by Oscar Ichazo. According to the Enneagram Institute, Ichazo was born in Bolivia and was raised there as well as Peru, but it was when he originally travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina that led him to a school of inner work. After spending some time at this school, Ichazo travelled to Asia to gather more knowledge and perspective on what he had learned in Argentina. It was after his travels that he was inspired to put “together a systematic approach to all he had learned,” which eventually turned into the original structure of the enneagram we know today.

According to the Enneagram Institute, the traditional enneagram (aka the one we use today) “only goes back to the 1960's when Ichazo was first teaching it, although the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Socrates, Plato, and the Neo-Platonists)—all traditions that stretch back into antiquity.”

It’s clear that although the enneagram we all know and love today can stand alone, it does have roots in ancient traditions which we are all learning from simultaneously. The original intention of the enneagram was to help you in your journey of self discovery, which still holds true today.

How to Find Your Enneagram Type & What They Mean

The entire enneagram system is fairly complex and has many parts, so we won’t be covering all of it in this one blog post but don’t worry, we’re going to cover the basics for you so you feel set up for success in your self discovery journey!

There are nine basic enneagram types, which refer to your basic personality type, according to the Enneagram Institute. Authors in the enneagram/personality space have different opinions on the overall meaning of the system, but they can all agree that each one of us is born with a dominant personality type, which corresponds to our enneagram type, otherwise known as our basic type. Some things to remember about these basic types are:

  • “People do not change from one basic personality type to another.”
  • “The descriptions of the personality types are universal and apply equally to males and females, since no type is inherently masculine or feminine.”
  • “Not everything in the description of your basic type will apply to you all the time because you fluctuate constantly among the healthy, average, and unhealthy traits that make up your personality type.”
  • “The Enneagram uses numbers to designate each of the types because numbers are value neutral— they imply the whole range of attitudes and behaviors of each type without specifying anything either positive or negative. Unlike the labels used in psychiatry, numbers provide an unbiased, shorthand way of indicating a lot about a person without being pejorative.”
  • “The numerical ranking of the types is not significant. A larger number is no better than a smaller number; it is not better to be a Nine than a Two because nine is a bigger number.”
  • “No type is inherently better or worse than any other. While all the personality types have unique assets and liabilities, some types are often considered to be more desirable than others in any given culture or group. Furthermore, for one reason or another, you may not be happy being a particular type. You may feel that your type is “handicapped” in some way. As you learn more about all the types, you will see that just as each has unique capacities, each has different limitations. If some types are more esteemed in Western society than others, it is because of the qualities that society rewards, not because of any superior value of those types. The ideal is to become your best self, not to imitate the assets of another type.”

Now that you know what an enneagram type actually is, let’s go over what each type means! Remember, no enneagram type is better than any other type, although it might seem that way depending on what words are used to describe them.

Type 1: The Reformer

This type is characterized by being rational and idealistic. The traits that encompass this type include being principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.

Type 2: The Helper

This type is characterized by being caring and interpersonal in nature. The traits that encompass this type include being demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive.

Type 3: The Achiever

This type is characterized by being success-oriented and pragmatic. The traits that encompass this type include being adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.

Type 4: The Individualist

This type is characterized by being sensitive and withdrawn. The traits that encompass this type include being expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.

Type 5: The Investigator

This type is characterized by being intense and cerebral. The traits that encompass this type include being perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.

Type 6: The Loyalist

This type is characterized by being committed and security-oriented. The traits that encompass this type include being engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.

Type 7: The Enthusiast

This type is characterized by being busy and fun-loving. The traits that encompass this type include being spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered.

Type 8: The Challenger

This type is characterized by being powerful and dominating. The traits that encompass this type include being self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.

Type 9: The Peacemaker

This type is characterized by being easygoing and self-efficacious. The traits that encompass this type include being receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent.

Why the Enneagram Matters

Knowing what your enneagram type is can be helpful in your own self discovery journey and lead you toward knowing your strengths and weaknesses on a more holistic level. We are not here to say that the enneagram personality types are the end-all-be-all when it comes to your overall personality, but we do think it can be a helpful tool in getting to know yourself a little bit better.

We hope that this blog post was helpful in your self discovery journey and taught you a little bit about how the enneagram can fit into that journey!

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