Your Main Personality Type
Welcome to Part Two of our Enneagram Theory series!
In this series, I, Chris, chief editor and co-founder of Personality Path, go into the depths of how the Enneagram came to be and how it works.
In Part One of this series, we tried to answer the question of what we talk about when we talk about personality.
This time, we step into what having a main personality type looks like.
What you will learn
There exists a fundamental problem any personality typing system needs to overcome if it wants to be of any use. The problem is this: How do you fit the unique personalities of billions of people into a system that is comprehensive enough to offer real value and insight, while respecting the fact that no two people are alike?
The Enneagram solves this problem in a variety of very elegant ways. So elegant in fact that we think it’s the most helpful of personality tools ever created (if it weren’t, we wouldn’t have bothered to put up this site). Let’s start with the basics.
The Rule of Nine
The Enneagram assumes that the human personality expresses itself in nine basic ways.
You could call them nine stories, or nine lenses, or nine patterns, or nine strategies. If you want to know more about this, I went into detail on this in Part One of this series.
The important thing is that every person picks up of these stories as their dominant one. Telling yourself this story over and over, then, becomes the lens through which you look at the world. The main pattern of how you interact with the world. The strategy you employ most often to try and solve your problems with. In short, it shapes your main personality type.
If we go along with this assumption, a couple of things follow.
Implication #1: All Enneagram types share some traits among them
If we acknowledge that these nine stories are so fundamental to the human experience, then we shouldn’t be surprised that we can tap into all of them at least a little.
- To a degree, we all want to be a good person.
- To a degree, we all want to be loved and give love.
- To a degree, we all want to live successful lives.
- To a degree, we all want to stay true to ourselves and have the feeling that we belong.
- To a degree, we all want to be competent in what we do.
- To a degree, we all want to find safety and security.
- To a degree, we all want to enjoy the good things in life.
- To a degree, we all want to be able to protect ourselves and the people we love.
- And to a degree, we are all searching for peace and harmony with ourselves and those around us.
If we go back to the language of personality types, that means we have something of every type in us.
This is only logical. We were born with the capacity to express the full spectrum of the human experience, and just because one of the nine stories shapes us the most, that doesn’t mean we completely lose touch with all the others.
It’s therefore normal that you will recognize some traits in each of the nine personality types as part of your own personality. That doesn’t mean the Enneagram is too broad or imprecise – it simply acknowledges reality.
Yet, on top of those shared traits, every person will gravitate to one of the types most naturally.
That is why, in the language of the Enneagram, you never are a personality type. This over-identification with your personality is exactly what the Enneagram is trying to help you overcome.
A much better way to talk about it could be saying you have a dominant personality type, or that your personality is shaped the most by one type – the one you most strongly relate to. In other words: the story that gave you your greatest strengths as well as your greatest weaknesses.
Implication #2: There are millions like you, yet no one is like yourself
Since there are only nine basic personality types, the logical conclusion is that you share your type with millions of other people. But it’s just as logical that not every person with the same Enneagram personality type has the same personality.
Each type can express itself in an infinite number of ways. That’s because, as we pointed out in chapter one, we carry a bit of all the other types in us, too. We can be shaped by more than one story. So the exact composition of beliefs and behaviors will be different for every person, even if their core belief is shaped by the same or a similar story.
It’s a bit like colors. If you have ever tried to pick a color for painting your wall, you know you won’t get far if you tell the guy at the hardware store that all you want is „blue“. Just as there are an infinite number of shades to each color, there are infinite variations of each personality type.
At the same time, when you say the word „blue“, everyone will understand what you mean and will know that blue isn’t red – even if the exact shade of blue you have in mind is different from theirs.
Similarly, the nine personality types help to distinguish between broad categories without neglecting the myriad expressions of any single type. You will find some people sharing your personality type who look a lot like you, while others don’t look like you at all.
To stay in the color metaphor: They might be a very dark petrol, while you are a bright ice blue. Still, no one will mistake the two of you for being yellow.
Implication #3: All types are created equal
Humans like to rate things. So whenever we see a new set of stuff, we like to ask: So which one is the best?
That doesn’t work with personality types.
As much as we like to attribute our value judgements on certain behaviors, beliefs, and stories, the truth is that Enneagram types are not about which is better or worse, but about realizing that the story you have been telling yourself gave you both: Special strengths that other types don’t have access to, and unique problems other types don’t have to deal with.
Type Three, for example, is often envied by other types, because their energy, determination, and goal-getter attitude often gets them a lot of what our society defines as success. High-paying jobs, promising careers, and social status are things we can get jealous of quickly. But if that person with a type Three personality hasn’t sorted out their issues, chances are very high they are utterly miserable, despite their achievements. That’s because when you build your life on fulfilling the expectations of others, you’ll never get to experience the joy of doing what you actually want to do.
So let me say it one more time: Personality types are as equal as they get. Every type comes with its special strengths, but also its necessary flaws.
And just to get it out of the way: Enneagram types also don’t discriminate between gender, social class, income, age or any other external factor you could think of. As much as there is a clear gender imbalance with certain types (a subject I will explore in much more detail in a future article), that has nothing to do with how that gender is wired, and everything with how our society pushes certain narratives more on certain genders.
For example, many women type themselves as type Two, because western society still likes to tell women that their job is to serve others and never insist too much on getting their own needs met, even that goes against their nature.
Similarly, in many parts of society, strength and domination are still hailed as necessary male traits, leading to men adopting type Eight attitudes much more often than they actually want to. Again, this topic deserves its own blog post, so I’ll stop right here.
The thing to remember is, if there is one place where true equality exists, it’s within the personality types of the Enneagram.
Implication #4: You will not show every trait of your type
Enneagram personality type descriptions work from the basis of the core beliefs and motivations that arise from the story a person tells themselves.
The behaviors and character traits these beliefs generate have been found to be consistently similar across the board. But the Enneagram is no oracle. It won’t predict your every move, and it will not help you predict the behaviors of others. That’s a dangerous and also pretty pointless game.
That’s why it’s totally normal that you don’t agree with everything you read in the description of your personality type. This includes our own type descriptions, and even the things you will find in your full report.
Not every single trait of a personality type will apply to every person of that type all the time. Again, that’s not because the system is vague. There are a myriad factors influencing the details of your personality. To name just a few:
- The stage of life you are in right now
- How psychologically healthy you are
- The degree to which other types influence your main type
- The partner you might have or not have
- And many more
So don’t be concerned when you read something about your type and think, “wait, but that’s not true for me at all.” The Enneagram isn’t magic. It doesn’t claim to be. Use it as a tool for self-understanding, and you will reap all the benefits it has to offer.
Implication #5: You can’t change your basic Enneagram personality type
It’s impossible to change your personality type. It has nothing to do with me not believing in you enough or something. I’m talking about the kind of “impossible” that prevents you from spontaneously growing wings and from traveling back in time. It’s just not how human personality works.
Someone shaped the most by Enneagram type One cannot suddenly change their whole belief system to that of type Four (or any other type), no matter how hard they try. Besides, that’s not what personality work is about. Honestly, you shouldn’t change your type even if you could – it’s the gift you alone have been given, and the burden you alone can bear.
Beyond your main personality type
For many people, finding their basic Enneagram type is a huge eye-opener: Suddenly their inner world, hidden from them for all their lives, starts to become visible in front of their eyes. It feels like someone finally gets them.
But that’s not where it stops. In fact, it’s only the starting point.
After all, we already agreed that nine personality types can’t explain the individual personalities of eight billion people.
So let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
This concludes Part Two of our introductory series to the Enneagram.
In Part Three, we will explore the idea of how the types left and right to you seem to have a disproportionate amount of influence on your personality.
You’re right, we’ll be talking about wings.
Hey there, I'm Chris, Chief Editor of Personality Path and the guy who wrote this article. If you want to know why the Enneagram has helped thousands of people more than any other personality assessment ever could, I'm with you. That's what our bi-weekly newsletter wants to explore. We're on the same journey as you. Wanna come?