Dear Faithful Readers,
I have a bold confession to make. It’s been a long time coming, and I hope you will stick with me and follow along with care and understanding. It’s something that I don’t think anyone had known for quite a while. You might think it’s no big deal, but some people I’ve met along the way have heralded it as an essential thing to talk about. So I figure now would be as good a time as any to clear the air, bring the truth to the table and have some space to speak out in authenticity.
*wipes sweat from forehead* Oh man, I just never thought this would be so tough to get to . . . but . . . well . . . here goes . . .
I’m an Enneagram 8.
I know. I know . . . What do you mean you knew it the whole time?!? Well, if you didn’t, you would’ve guessed it sooner or later. (I’m sure it would be sooner.) I’m a loud and proud 8. And look, if we’re being fully transparent, I’m actually an 8, wing 2.
You might be asking yourself: What in the wide world is an Enneagram 8? Well, let’s start here—the Enneagram spectrum represents nine distinct strategies for relating to the self, others and the world. It’s another approach to personality type analysis. Each Enneagram type has a different pattern of thinking, feeling and acting based on a deeper inner motivation or worldview.
Like any personality tests, the Enneagram has a distinctive way of ‘typing’ people. While I appreciate the insights, I hope you realize that a lot of them are ‘true, but‘ insights. I actually prefer to be known by my Meyers-Briggs Personality Type (ENFJ thankyouverymuch) instead of my Enneagram Type because I feel it more accurately describes me, and once people hear that I’m an 8, it’s typically met with a grimace and an, “OH, an Eight? Yikes! I guess I need to stay away from you, huh?” Here’s the thing, friends . . . Being an 8 is tough stuff. Not just because we tend to be seen as tough people to be around/work with, but because as an 8, this toughness is often misunderstood. As you can see from the Enneagram symbol above, the 8s are known as The Challengers. According to the Enneagram Institute:
“We have named personality type Eight The Challenger because, of all the types, Eights enjoy taking on challenges themselves as well as giving others opportunities that challenge them to exceed themselves in some way. Eights are charismatic and have the physical and psychological capacities to persuade others to follow them into all kinds of endeavors—from starting a company, to rebuilding a city, to running a household, to waging war, to making peace.”
However, on first glance, you might interpret “THE CHALLENGER” as a scary, dangerous, offensive moniker. We tend to be seen on the surface as these aggressive, intimidating, unwavering monsters out to crush everyone around us. Personally, that’s not the truth I walk in. I am not the type of person who wants to crush everyone around me. I want to see others around me rise to greatness. Don’t get me wrong; I do get aggressive when I see a challenge in front of me. I can seem intimidating when advocating for people I care deeply about. I am unwavering when I step in to stand up for someone being bullied or treated unjustly. But if people were willing to look past the outer layers and take time to get to know me, they’d find someone with deep compassion and love for people, who wants to help others win, who wants to hear life stories of others and celebrate life alongside them. I think a lot of the misconceptions and stereotypes about 8s come from a lack of being willing to get to know us in a deeper way.
Eights are often considered ‘control freaks.’ It’s true that I like to be in control of my life, but I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t want that in some capacity. I suppose it’s possible that I have a stronger sense of what I think is right and wrong for myself, but I’d like to believe I’m not the only one. I’m also not the type to back away from conflict resolution or a crucial conversation—I seek resolution, restoration, and forward movement. I am the type to get things done, and I thrive when I feel I can improve a situation. I do struggle with trust issues (partially related to my personal history) primarily because once I feel you’ve earned my trust, I can be my 100% unedited self without fear of offending you in any way or that you will use my trust against me. I’m not afraid to trust; I’m just mindful of who I trust with the many layers of who I am. Even with caution in vulnerability, I have learned a lot about myself and how to move into healthier zones within relationships. Though finding balance in my ‘Eightness’ is something I’ve struggled with for many years, I am getting better at focusing each trait of my personality towards positive forward motion. I don’t always succeed, but as I am my own biggest critic and harshest judge, I am very aware of where I fall short and do everything in my power to make it right.
As an Enneagram 8, I ask that you please be patient with us. Ask us questions and check in if you need to. My Intern once told me that she was afraid that I was going to yell at her about something she was working on, even though I have never-not-once-ever raised my voice to her or gotten angry at her. We had to have some honest conversations early on where I let her know that my silence does not equal anger. That I’m not thinking about how much she might be failing—in fact, most of the time, I’m thinking of something completely unrelated to what is even going on in the moment like debating what movies are coming out soon that I’m dying to watch. I told her that she was going to have to proactive about unapologetically asking me, “Are we okay, because you seem kind of irritated.” I won’t lie, and I won’t be offended. I’ll check myself and give honest feedback. I also realize I have a very dry sense of humor, so there are plenty of times that I need to clarify that I’m joking around. Same goes for when I agree with an idea. I might say, “I like it, go with it. Just be sure that you think about _______ before you finalize your plans for that project.” but because I’m not fueling it with emotional excitement, it can seem as though I don’t think you can do it or that I’m waiting for you to fail. The truth is, I 100% believe you can do it and I just want you to keep something in mind so that you have a better path towards knocking the project out of the park (so to speak).
Like you, I’m a work in progress with so many unique elements that make up who I am now and who I am becoming. If you know any other 8s in your life, please don’t dismiss them, or fear them, or tell yourself stories about them without taking time to get to know them. We are just like you—seeking meaningful connection, grace, wisdom, and authentic friendships. To those who get to spend time up close and personal with me—THANK YOU FOR STICKING AROUND! Thank you for getting to know me and all my complexities. Thank you for letting me show you that I do have a soft side and that I’m not as ‘put-together’ as most assume. Thank you for laughing with me through my dry sense of humor. Thank you for putting up with my tunnel-vision and bossy stress when I’m facing an important deadline. Thank you for not judging me based on a title, position, or my appearance. We 8s need more of you in our lives!
An Enneagram 8