Updated: Jan 23, 2020
I have always been a sucker for personality quizzes, any kind of personality quiz: “What colour best represents your personality?”; “Which Hogwarts house would you be in?”; and even, “What font are you?” (for the record, I am green: helper and supporter; Hufflepuff: hardworking and loyal; and times new roman: not flashy but reliable and gets the job done).
When I received a request to participate in a one-hour-long “typing interview” to identify my personality type under the Enneagram, I was quick to accept. An hour of talking about how hardworking, loyal and, ahem, humble I am? Sign me up! Should be a good bit of fun.
When I met Margaret Ault at her lovely home, she explained that the Enneagram is a personality system that describes nine distinct ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, or in her words, “nine different ways of loving, nine different ways of suffering and nine different ways of healing or growing.” She explained that learning about my personality type would help me discover what motivates me, identify my coping strategies, provide me with insights into my personal development and relate to others with greater objectivity and compassion—a bit more than I had gained through the “What font are you?” quiz!
After about an hour of discussion and a number of thought-provoking questions, I was declared to be Type Six: The Loyal Skeptic. While Margaret told me lots about Sixes, the thing that really struck a chord was when she said that Sixes often view the world as unsafe and spend a great deal of time looking for what could go wrong. This fit me to a T, and I didn’t like it. All the other types seemed better. Who wouldn’t rather be a Protector or a Mediator or a Giver than a pessimistic worrywart?
When I shared this with Margaret, she outed herself as a fellow Six. This made me feel better. I had immediately liked Margaret. She was gracious and had put me at ease. She didn’t seem like a paranoid basket case at all. Margaret sympathized with my discontent and pointed out the positive aspect of Sixes’ tendency to look for problems. When you are able to anticipate potential problems, you have the opportunity to prevent them. She pointed out that when the family goes anywhere, I am probably the one who ensures we have everything we could possibly need, and she was totally right: “The kids could get hungry and then cranky; better bring granola bars! It’s hot outside; better bring water bottles and sunscreen!” This is also what makes me a good lawyer. Much of what lawyers do is look for what could go wrong and try to prevent it.
I was so accustomed to viewing my tendency to worry as a negative characteristic that having its positive side pointed out to me was a great relief and even made me feel a bit proud. My worry helps to protect others. Who knew?
The problem with looking for problems is that it tends to continue even when it is not useful. It is useful at work and in certain other situations, but it tends to run overtime, making me anticipate problems that I can do nothing about or that are not likely to occur. A quote by Mark Twain seems to sum this up well: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” All this focus on problems is exhausting and often a huge waste of time and energy.
However, looking at this characteristic in a friendlier way has created huge changes in my life. Instead of constantly criticizing myself for worrying, layering suffering upon suffering, I now take a far more compassionate approach. I now see my tendency to worry as a caring but overzealous guardian. It is trying to keep me and those around me safe. It just needs to chill every now and again. This is where yoga and mindfulness come in for me.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity Margaret gave me to recognize my Enneagram type and the compassion she showed in helping me understand it. Having experienced the Enneagram’s usefulness first-hand, I have long been interested in exploring it further.
I am so pleased that Margaret has agreed to run a fun workshop with me called the Embodied Enneagram. It will run February 7, 7-9 p.m. and February 8, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. This workshop that will help participants identify their Enneagram type and learn yoga practices best suited to their type.
The Enneagram identifies nine different personality types:
The Loyal Skeptic
Which one are you?