Updated: Sep 5, 2018
There are hundreds of personality tests out there, some people buy into them and some people don’t. If you’re like my brother and find yourself fitting down the middle of tests like the Myers-Briggs, then these kinds of tests may seem pretty useless.
However, if you are someone (like me) who has aspects of your personality that are pretty clear cut and easy to categorize, then you may find exploring aspects of your personality helpful. Diving deeper and building self-awareness around our tendencies helps us to be more intentional in our thoughts and actions. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses helps us manage our emotions and how we show up in the world.
One of my favorite tests of personality is the Enneagram. I love it because it requires a person to get very honest with themselves about areas in their life that need work, areas of strength, and how to utilize and transform those gifts and difficulties.
The Enneagram lays out 9 archetypes. To most accurately identify your type I recommend taking the test. You can find a free test here.
You may have a good sense of your type by reading a brief overview of the nine types below. The test will give you the most accurate results, and you may really be surprised. The more she was honest with herself, the clearer her true type became.
As for me, well, let’s just say I wasn't surprised by my results. All the information comes from the amazing book The Wisdom of the Enneagram (see reference and purchase info below).
The Nine Types
Type 1: The Reformer
AKA The Teacher, The Activist, The Crusader, The Perfectionist, The Organizer, or The Moralist
Rational, principled, self-controlled. Ethical with a strong sense of right and wrong. High integrity, always working to improve things. Well organized with high standards.
Challenges: Repressed anger, perfectionism, impatience.
Strengths: Wise, noble, discerning, realistic, moral strength.
Wake Up Call & Warning Signs: Feeling a sense of personal obligation to fix everything alone. Taking rigid positions, becoming self-righteous or judgmental, rationalizing or justifying actions, outbursts of rage, self-punishment.
How Reformers Manipulate Others: Correcting others- insisting others share their same standards.
Biggest Fear: That their ideals are actually wrong and counter-productive.
Emphasizes: Being correct, organized, and sensible. Focuses on standards, improving themselves, and knowing the rules.
Goal: to become more spontaneous and joyful.
Manages Feelings: By repression and denial. Feelings are channeled into activity, getting things done perfectly. Feelings are held as physical rigidity in the body.
Relation to Systems: Want to work with the system. Try to be “the good boy or girl” and are irritated with people who disregard the rule.
Exercise for Growth:
Journal or reflect on the following: Make a list of areas in your life that you demand or expect order and control. Do you have high expectations of others and find yourself annoyed when they fail to reach those expectations?
Make a pro-con list of how holding onto expectations and order impacts you and those around you.
Write down all the judgments you made of others in the last few hours. Did you judge people on TV or the radio? Did you judge people you know personally?
Write down all the judgments you’ve made of yourself in the last few hours. Is there a theme to the judgments?
Type 2: The Helper
AKA The Altruist, The Lover, The Caretaker, The Pleaser, The FriendGenerous, caring, warm-hearted, empathic, and sincere. Friendly, aids in fostering independence in others, self-sacrificing, and sentimental.
Challenges: Acknowledging their own needs and caring for themselves, avoids disappointment and anger.
Strengths: Unselfish, altruistic, and giving.
Wake Up Call & Warning Signs: Believing they must win over others, acting with entitlement, repressed or passive aggression, manipulating or coercing others.
How Helpers Manipulate Others: Exploiting the needs of others, making them develop dependency on the helper.
Biggest Fear: That they are driving friends and loved ones away.
Emphasizes: their good intentions.
Avoids Seeing: Their own neediness, disappointment, and anger.
Problems with Needs: Overemphasis on the needs of others, often neglecting their own needs.
Goal: To become more self-nurturing, emotionally aware, and healthy boundary setting.
Exercises for Growth:
Journal or reflect on how you use people pleasing. Do you flatter others or do tasks for them?
How would you react if someone called you out on your people pleasing? How does it feel when others are trying to flatter or please you?
Journal or reflect on this question: How do I know I am loved? Who am I wanting to love me?
When you find yourself pleasing others ask: What do I need right now?
Ask loved ones or those you care about what they need from you and what they DO NOT need from you. Make a list of your own personal daily needs.
Type 3: The Achiever (my type)
AKA The Motivator, The Role Model, The Paragon, The Communicator
Adaptable, succsess-oriented, self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, leader.
Challenges: Concerned about image and what others think, workaholism, and competitive.
Strengths: self-accepting, authentic, role models who inspire others.
Wake Up Call & Warning Signs: Starting to drive themselves for status and attention, burnout from workaholism, deceiving others, jealousy, rage and hostility, concealing emotional distress.
How Achievers Manipulate Others: Charming others and adopting whatever image will “work”.
Biggest Fear: That they are failing, that they are imposters and fraudulent.
Emphasizes: Being efficient, capable, and outstanding. They focus on goals, being pragmatic, and knowing how to present self.
Manages feelings: by repression and keeping attention on tasks, staying active. Achievement offsets painful feelings. They look to others for feeling cues.
Relation to Systems: Want to work with the system, but like being outside of it- bending the rules and finding shortcuts.
Goal: To become more cooperative and committed to others.
Exercises for Growth:
Identify and write down 5 areas in your life where you don’t feel compelled to be the best. Write down 5 areas in your life where you do feel compelled to be the best. Compare the lists and notice the physical or emotional feelings each creates.
Place your hand over your heart and take a few deep breaths. Let your attention focus on this part of your body. What do you experience? There is no right or wrong. See if you can stay with the feeling and remain present to it.
Reflect or journal: In what ways or areas are you success driven and competitive? What would happen if you didn’t have to be the best in that area? How have you reframed or managed past failures.
Reflect or journal: What image do you project to others? Is your image that you project at work different than that at parties or to your family? Begin to notic when you adjust how you present to others. Notice your tone, your posture, and ask why you are making the adjustment.
Share something vulnerable about yourself with someone you trust. Focus on how you feel when you are vulnerable.
Type 4: The Individualist (the artist)
Intuitive, romantic and introspective. Self-aware, sensitive, reserved, quiet. Self-revealing, emotionally honest, and personal.
Challenges: Self-indulgence and self-pity.
Strengths: Inspired, highly creative, able to transform their experiences.
Wake Up Calls and Warning Signs: Holding onto and intensifying feelings, a growing sense of alienation, dependency on one or two others, outbursts of rage, hostility and hatred, self-sabatoge, self-hatred, chronic depression and hopelessness.
How Individualists Manipulate Others: Becoming temperamental- making others “walk on eggshells”.
Biggest Fear: That they are ruining their life and wasting opportunity.
Seeks: A rescuer, someone to understand and support their life and dreams. They want to be seen.
Fears: Abandonment- that no one will care for them; that they will not have enough support to find themselves and reach their potential.
Deals with Others By: Keeping others interested by limiting access, playing “hard to get” and holding on to supporters.
Goal: To become more objective and principled.
Exercises for Growth:
Notice your tendency to focus on differences you have with others. What does this cost you in terms of connecting with others?
Notice your home environment, your clothes, things you watch or listen to. How attached are you to external things to get you in the mood to do something?
Avoid over-interpretting or over-thinking feedback from others. Seek clarification if you think someone is judging or rejecting you.
Notice when and how you withdrawal from others. Do you make yourself an outsider when you don’t have to be? Can you tell when you withdrawal as a choice vs. emotionally reacting to what may be an old childhood wound?
Reflect on your tendency to create drama in your main relationships. What are you really upset about? What are you trying to elicit from the person you fighting with?
Type 5: The Investigator (the intellectual)Perceptive, Intense and cerebral. Alert, insightful, and curious. Can concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent and innovative. Can become preoccupied with thoughts and ideas.
Challenges: isolation, eccentricity, nihilism, detachment, becoming high strung and intense.
Strengths: visionary pioneers, ahead of their time.
Wake Up Calls and Warning Signs: Withdrawing from reality into concepts and mental worlds, increasing isolation, physical neglect, insomnia and sleep disorders, refusing help, increased eccentricity, thoughts of suicide.
How Investigators Manipulate Others: Staying preoccupied and detaching emotionally from others.
Biggest Fear: That they are never going to find a place in the world or with people.
Emphasizes: Being the expert and having deep information. They focus on process, objective facts, and maintaining clarity and detachment.
Manages Feelings: By splitting off and abstracting feelings, staying preoccupied and cerebral, as if their feelings were happening to someone else.
Relation to Systems: Reject the system and want to work on their own, outside of it. They have little patience with procedure or rules.
Goal: To become more self-confident and decisive.
Exercises for Growth:
Reflect on: how many hours a day do you spend thinking about intellectual issues or pastimes to avoid dealing with personal issues?
When you find yourself in a heated debate with someone else, what do you notice occurring in your body? How important is it that you convey your point? What beliefs are you putting on the other person, and what you are afraid of?
Observe your attraction to darker things. Is your interest in these topics making it harder to participate in the world?
Type 6: The Loyalist (my husband)
Engaging, responsible, committed and security-oriented. Reliable, hardworking, and responsible.
Challenges: self-doubt and suspicions.
Strengths: Internal stability, self-confidence, self-reliance, courageous at supporting the weak and powerless.
Wake Up Calls and Warning Signs: Becoming dependent on something outside of self for guidance, intense anxiety and panic attacks, fear of losing support from others, becoming suspicious of others, lashing out, feelings of inferiority, alternating between dependency and defiance.
How Loyalists Manipulate Others: By complaining and testing others’ commitment to them.
Biggest Fear: That their own actions have harmed their security.
Seeks: Both independence and support. They want someone to rely o, but they also need to be “the strong on.”
Fears: Being abandoned and without support, but also becoming too dependent on others.
Deals with others by: Being committed and reliable while trying to maintain their independence; they are engaging but also defensive.
Goal: To become more relaxed and optimistic.
Exercises for Growth:
When a problem comes up, do you rely on precedents or others? Or do you rely on your own intelligence and intuition?
Look at areas in your life where you tend to over-commit yourself. What kept you from saying no? What emotions occur because you didn’t say no?
Reflect or Journal: How often do you expect bad outcomes? Do you have trouble believing things will work out?
Reflect or Journal: How many of your conversations involve complaining? Who or what are you blaming for problems in your life?
Type 7: The Enthusiast
Upbeat, accomplished, impulsive. Busy and productive. Versatile, spontaneous, and optimistic. Playful, high-spirited, and practical. Seeking new and exciting experiences, easily distracted and tired from always being on the go.
Challenges: Superficiality and impulsiveness.
Strengths: Focus talents on worthwhile goals, joyful, highly accomplished, full of gratitude.
Wake Up Calls and Warning Signs: Feeling that something better is available somewhere else, attempts to escape anxiety, addiction, impulsiveness, compulsive activities, periods being out of control, wild mood swings.
How Enthusiasts Manipulate Others: Distracting others and insisting that others meet their demands.
Biggest Fear: That their activities are bringing them pain and unhappiness.
Emphasizes: Positive experiences, enjoyment, activity, excitement, and fun.
Avoids Seeing: Their pain and emptiness, their role in creating suffering for self and others.
Problems with Needs: Overemphasis on their own needs. Easily feel burdened by the needs of others.
Goal: To become focused and profound.
Exercises for Growth:
Concentrate on an ordinary activity. Bring all your attention to that activity. Notice when your mind wanders. Gently bring your attention back to the original task. Repeat. Eventually you will uncover what is triggering you to distract. Are there physical triggers you experience such as hunger, tiredness, or anxiety?
Try to catch yourself when you are entertaining others. Who are you doing this for? What is this excited state doing for you? Is it satisfying? What would it be like if you didn’t need to increase the excitement in your environment?
Reflect or Journal: How does the anticipation and desire for other experiences keep you from savoring your present experience?
Notice what you identify as boredom. How does it feel in your body? What is the sensation? What does it remind you of?
Dig deeper: Recall a person or event that brings up strong feelings. Think about that and notice how long and what it feels like to stay with those feelings. Can you identify what prevented you from staying with the feelings or what distracted you.
Journal: Make a list of projects you’ve begun but haven’t finished. Make a list of projects you’d like to complete. Are there patterns in both lists? Are you more interested in the excitement of having a new plan or possibility than the satisfaction of finishing? How addicted are you to always being on the go? What have you been running toward? What have you been running from?
Type 8: The Challenger
Decisive, powerful and dominating. Self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective and resourceful, decisive, proud, domineering.
Challenges: Allowing themselves to get close to others.
Strengths: use strengths to improve the lives of others, heroic, magnanimous.
Wake Up Call & Warning Signs: Feeling that they must push and struggle to make things happen, feeling betrayed by “their people”, increased bitterness and isolation, rage, holding grudges.
How Challengers Manipulate Others: Dominating others and demanding others do as they say.
Biggest Fear: That others are turning against them and will retaliate
Seeks: Independence and self-reliance. They want to need others as little as possible, to be their own person.
Fears: Being controlled or dominated by others. Thus they fear intimacy and becoming vulnerable by trusting or caring too much.
Deals with others by: Keeping their guard up, not letting others get too close, and toughening themselves against hurt and their need for others.
Goal: To become more open-hearted and caring.
Exercises for Growth
Notice when you are using more energy than necessary for a task for activity. For example, if you are holding onto something, how tightly are you gripping it? If you are speaking to someone, what is the tone of your voice? Can you use less energy to get the same task accomplished?
Notice one area if your life – a place, a time, or relationship - where you do not have to be tough. How is this different than other areas of your life? How does it feel?
For eights, there is a sense of ‘being alive’ that comes with competition and taking risks. How is this state of living different than the state you are in when relaxing? Can you consciously relax or do you find yourself desiring to do more? What do relaxing do you to your sense of self?
Eights put themselves under pressure to be strong and provide for others. What are the circumstances in which you’ve put yourself under this kind of pressure. Who were you doing it for? What would have happened if you had been a little easier on yourself?
The next time you are triggered to react, instead of reacting on the impulse, try to stop and breathe deeply. Notice how the energy of the impulse moves inside you. How long does the impulse last? Does it bring up other feelings? Touch the area of your body where you most feel the impulse to react. What happens?
Type 9: The Peacemaker
Receptive, reassuring, Easy going and self-effacing. Accepting, trusting, and stable. Good-natured, kind-hearted, easygoing and supportive.
Challenges: Passivity and stubbornness.
Strengths: Indomitable and all-embracing. Able to bring people together and heal conflicts.
Wake Up Call & Warning Signs: Accommodating themselves to others, denying health, financial, or personal problems, resistance to help-seeking, sense of inadequacy and general neglectfulness, dependency on others and allowing self to become exploited or used.
How Peacemakers Manipulate Others: By “checking out” and passive aggressively resisting others.
Biggest Fear: That they will be forced by reality to deal with their problems.
Emphasizes: The positive qualities of others and of their environment.
Avoids Seeing: Problems with loved ones or their environment as well as their own lack of development.
Problems with Needs: Feeling overwhelmed by their own needs and the needs of others. They do not want to deal with either.
Goal: To become more self-developing and energetic.
Exercises for Growth
Think about a time when you neglected your own desires to go along with others. Did this create resentment? What did this do to your sense of involvement?
Make a list of things in life that excite you (without editing). What kind of person would you be if you could? What steps could you take to be that person this week?
Notice when you mentally “check out” of a situation. What triggered you to check out? Start paying attention to triggers as early warning signs.
When you start idealizing someone, notice the qualities about the other person you tend to focus on. Do you feel like you don’t have these qualities? Let this realization guide your own inner work for developing those qualities you admire.
Reflect or journal: What ways are you postponing showing up to your life more fully?
Practice allowing yourself to feel anger. It’s an important messenger, and helps us in saying no. Allow yourself to say no to things you do not want to do.
Of course, our personalities are not usually exclusively one thing. The Enneagram groups the personality types into triads.
The Instinctive Triad (Types 1, 8, and 9)
Focus primarily on controlling their environment: boundaries, irritability, tension, defensiveness
Issues with aggression and repression
Underlying Feeling: Rage
The Feeling Triad (Types 2, 3, and 4)
Focus on love of self-image, emotionality, holding onto moods, adapting to affect others.
Issues with identity and hostility
Underlying Feeling: Shame
The Thinking Triad (Types 5, 6, and 7)
Focus on strategies and beliefs, doubt, and figuring it out
Issues with insecurity and anxiety
Underlying Feeling: Fear
To learn more about the Enneagram visit the Enneagram Institute.
Riso, Don Richard., and Russ Hudson. The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types. Bantam Books, 1999.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram is Available for purchase at https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/store