The Enneagram Deepens Self-Understanding

A deeper understanding of yourself is the first step in showing grace and understanding to those around you.

I loved being in choir in high school. I graduated from a school with a particularly strong and large choral department. Being a member of the elite groups was in many ways a status symbol at our school.

I often found myself in the choir room whenever I had a free period, eager to just be close to this place where I found my deepest sense of belonging.

As a natural next step, when I went to college, I made the decision to study music education and later went on to teach vocal music. Unexpectedly, in my first few years of teaching, I felt incredibly lonely and I found myself having a hard time getting out of bed many mornings. I was doing the exact thing I’d set out to do, but it was failing to bring me the same happiness my high school choir days had brought me. 

Looking back on that time now, with a deeper understanding of who I am, I can see exactly what the problem was, and why music education was not the right career path for me. I could never have been dissuaded from studying music education at the time, simply because I didn’t understand what I was really looking for when I longed to extend my positive experience in high school.

Over the past several years, I’ve sought a deeper understanding of myself. Transitioning into motherhood as well as several career transitions left me feeling detached from myself, uncertain of my identity.

There were times over the past few years of young motherhood when I felt like little more than a milk machine, sometimes unsure of even what my likes and dislikes or dreams were. 

There were many things that brought me a deeper understanding of myself over the past few years: my relationship with God, my church, my close friends and family, my favorite podcast community, authors like Mel Robbins, Glennon Doyle, and Brené Brown. However, one of the greatest tools that came to me during this time was the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a personality assessment tool that is aimed at discovering what motivates an individual. There are nine types on the system, which are often assigned a name as well. (You can take an assessment and learn about your type here.) I am an Enneagram 7, which is often referred to as the Enthusiast or Joyful Person.

Learning about the Enneagram 7 shed a light on some of my greatest strengths, as well as my negative tendencies. I realized how valuable my enthusiasm and energy can be to a group, that I’m able to help lend a positive, optimistic view during a tough moment.

I began to recognize how actively I avoid pain and discomfort, the core fear for a 7. I started to notice how critical having fun and a sense of belonging is for me to feel motivated and energized. 

As I deepened in my self-understanding, I devoured books about the Enneagram in an aim to better understand the people in my life. Suddenly, people who intimidated me seemed approachable.

Words that would have previously offended me changed their tone with a new framework of understanding. I developed deeper grace for everyone around me, simply because I had a fresh appreciation for who they were as individuals. The Enneagram transformed all of my relationships with a fresh outpouring of grace and understanding. 

Today, I work in a digital marketing agency, which is a far cry from high school choir. Yet, I feel a profoundly deep satisfaction in this career, at this particular company, because it is exactly what I need as an Enneagram 7: it’s incredibly fun, very fast-paced, and I have a deep sense of belonging.

Now that I know who I am, I can see that this is exactly what I was looking for all along: as a high school chorister, as a college student, and as a young music teacher.

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.