“The Enneagram refers to the nine different types or styles, with each representing a worldview and archetype that resonates with the way people think, feel and act in relation to the world, others and themselves.” – integrative9.com
After hearing a lot about this ‘personality test’ last year, I finally decided to give it a go without expecting much, I just wanted to find out what number I was on this seemingly popular scale. (I am a 4) I wasn’t ready for how precisely it would pin down my biggest fear, my drive, behavioral patterns and my relationship with friends. It felt like someone had studied my behavior and beliefs for the entire course of my life and then summarized it. So if anyone of you reading is interested in learning about your driving motivations and basic belief, you can take the test here (https://www.9types.com/rheti/index.php) . Personally, I use the enneagram as a tool to understand myself better, improve on my shortcomings and understand what certain feelings/emotions actually mean.
After reading every possible article, watching every video, listening to podcasts on type 4s, I still found a lack of helpful advice or tips that might ease the harshness of everyday realities for 4s, so I decided to start a list of things I’ve learnt about being a type 4, especially after being in the most tumultuous period of life so far with a hope that it will help other 4s out there in navigating this crazy, messy world. I’ll keep updating this post as I learn more about myself and grow into a more tranquil and cohesive 4.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself: Being idealistic and driven, you can take up too much at once, give it your best shot and then start burning out. I have done this countless number of time by taking up 4-5 huge goals at once instead of starting out steadily and then building up. It seems strange to not take up everything you want to be good at so you plan extensively and then find yourself exhausted 4 days down the road. Take up 2 long term goals (both should NOT take a lot of willpower, they should differ in their intensity) and a very-short term one (think reading a book, decluttering, making notes) at a time so that while you are building productive momentum by ticking off the very-short term goals, riding the wave of optimism with the low will-power goal, you are fulfilling a long term one without feeling entirely spent. 12 months, 8-12 long term goals and you are so much closer to who you want to be.
- Patience: Continuing on from 1, it is easy to get tired with seemingly ‘low rate’ of growth but know that no one gets to their best self in a week. What we want to build is not a stamina for a summer hobby but the ‘grit’ for an entire lifetime and that takes more failures than successes and the patience to be a beginner over and over again. It is hella scary but worth it in the end.
- On taking everything personally: This has probably wasted SO much of your time and tears. I still struggle with being extremely sensitive but what has helped me get a bit better with it is accepting that what a person says about me/to me has more to do with what kind of person they are rather than who I am. This seems like cringy, old-school advice but it works.
- Melancholy: The most important thing I learnt about the intense melancholic moods 4s experience comes from a podcast (can’t remember the name, will link if i find it). The speaker was a 4 too and she said,” Know that you are feeding the melancholy; at any moment you can choose to snap out of it and do something that’ll make you feel better.” What struck me was how it clarified that I had a choice in the matter because when I am down in the dumps, I feel so stuck that I start believing that the only thing I can do is stay there and wallow in self-hate and be morose.
- Emotional Turbulence: What can help you be more tranquil is ensuring your basic needs at ALL TIMES; keep hydrated, eat at regular intervals, get 40 minutes of exercise, manage stress by taking breaks, because often feelings can seem to be totally separate from the body but really, well-balanced health regulates your emotions and help you lead a wholesome, well-rounded life.
- Identity: As a creative 4, it is important for my mental health to keep writing poetry, reading books or consuming art to feel like myself. If I take long breaks from doing those things, I feel less confident in my ‘identity’ than I already am. Find what are those things that ground you and help you feel more yourself and do them regularly.
- Perfectionism: Being idealistic can also lead to 4s giving up on doing any basic or small task because it isn’t ‘significant’ enough or ‘perfect’ enough but almost always, I’ve found that doing these small tasks is extremely important to get closer to a balanced state. So try to overcome the crippling need to be ideal at all times and try to jazz up the small things by listening to a podcast or TED talk to take your mind off of them. Similarly, take care of the small things about yourself even if they seem insignificant.I have also found resistance to keep creating art because it didn’t feel good enough but I try to keep in mind that a great artist always chooses volume over perfection and to reach a certain level of greatness at my craft, I must keep at it.
- Nostalgia: I still struggle with letting the past go but have certainly come a long way from when the past was all I could think of. I made a realistic list of things to look forward to, I planned stuff with friends and family, occupied myself with new goals and books, changed my style and surroundings to not fall into the dark pit of nostalgia. Another thing that worked for me was allowing myself to think of a moment gone by but actively helping myself realize that there was nothing to gain from the past.
- Support: Even if you maintain a steady emotional and mental health, it is best to have a close friend to confide in when you feel dreadful and incompetent. Trust someone who has similar thinking patterns as you or is very empathetic and a good listener and let them help you untangle the threads of confusing emotions.
- Confidence: This comes last as it is something I am still working towards improving. 4s think of themselves as fundamentally lacking. I used to struggle with immense self-hate but I got over it by continuously reminding myself all that I liked about myself till I started liking what I despised in me. Continuous positive self-talk can create wonders yet, I have a long way to go in this regard.
Disclaimer: This is written from a personal experience POV and may or may not work for every type 4. The trick is to take what works for you, leave what doesn’t and try to come up with other mechanisms that might help you be a tranquil, joyful 4.
pic sources: pinterest