I was called a nerd in staff meeting yesterday. It was a term of endearment (I think) because of my love (obsession) for the Enneagram. I was giving an update about the Enneagram workshop I had done with my Youth Leaders on Sunday afternoon. Let’s be honest here, I was gushing about it. Because I love the Enneagram.
I first took the Enneagram in 2012 as a piece of a cohort I was a part of in Seminary. I liked the insights but if I’m honest, I didn’t fully understand what it meant for me. We went through it as a group but didn’t quite have a grasp on the reality of what it was revealing about ourselves and each other. It’s come up a few times in the years since and each time I am amazed at how much it explains who I am and why I do the things I do. But it was kind of just an acceptance that this “Personality test” had me pegged and I would move on.
In the last year I’ve dug more deeply into it through the help of an amazing life coach we are utilizing at church to teach and develop our leaders with the Enneagram. She has stretched me and pushed me towards growth through my Enneagram type. Through this process each staff member was given a 30 minute coaching session with her to talk about our results. Since I already knew my number, my coaching session focused on creating a growth plan for myself. After a long bit of rambling around the topics that were currently causing me distress or disunity in my life, she asked some clarifying questions and then challenged me.
First though, a bit about who twos are. Enneagram type 2s value love and nurture. They are deeply relational and connected people. They are emotionally charged and intuitive. A common phrase spoken about 2s is that they often know what others are feeling before the person knows it themself. Chris Heuertz says that “2s are here to help us connect to our hearts. They give us permission to explore our own hearts – they validate our connection with our emotional selves.”
One of the areas where Enneagram Type 2s can struggle is in meeting and knowing their own needs. It’s kind of a funny idea that they strive to meet the needs of others and yet are so clueless on their own needs and emotions. My two friends and I often use the phrase “I have all the feelings, I’m just not sure why or what they are about.”
Twos can also have a hard time defining themselves authentically. We often find ourselves defining our identity based off of who we are for other people. Twos are capable of a lot of deeply intimate relationships because of their being so rooted in their feelings.
So much of my own identity has been wrapped up in who I am to others, but not just my relation to them, the type of relation I have to them. I’m not just a youth pastor, I’m a relational youth pastor. I don’t see myself as a friend, I’m a confidante – someone you can rely on and trust with your junk. I hold myself back from difficult situations and conversations because I’m afraid of how someone else will perceive me, especially if I feel like I’m letting them down.
So that’s what our friend and life coach challenged me to – to take time and define myself outside of my relationships to others. To spend time really searching my heart. Chris Heuertz echos that in his challenge to Twos, “I suggest that that’s consenting to solitude – That’s finding that time alone to explore the gifts of who you are when you are not giving yourself away because when you can know the truth about yourself, that’s when you can find all that it is you have to offer. And there’s a lot there. Don’t cheat yourself and don’t cheat us.”
I love that Chris says, “Don’t cheat yourself and don’t cheat us.” Because that’s what happens when a 2 doesn’t take care of themselves first – they cheat themselves of the ability love others well, which of course is what we want to do. We are eager to love others by caring for them. But when we allow that to define ourselves, when we don’t turn that love inward first, we are cheating ourselves. And we end up cheating others because our loving kindness can become manipulative.
In his podcast explanation of his song about the Enneagram 2, Ryan O’Neal of Sleeping at Last says, “Once the two steps away and gives the attention to themselves… it’s probably a difficult process and I imagine it being a really uncomfortable thing.” He nailed it. It’s extremely uncomfortable, but it’s so necessary. And so I am learning to take the time outs from being a helper and turn that care inward. I am learning to define my own needs and then asking for help myself when I need it.
Self care is hard for a two. But if we want to continue living into the relationships that give us so much life, we must learn not to depend on those relationships to define who we are.
For more reading on the Enneagram, check out books and podcasts by Ian Cron, Chris Heuertz (Linked above). And keep checking back here, I’ll be writing more on my own journey with the Enneagram.