New Year, Same Me



I had a fairly idyllic childhood. The first few years of my life were filled with the things that still matter most today: my people and books.

All my needs were covered by my parents. Sure, I had to deal with my younger brother but at that stage, we got along fairly well. I didn’t have to worry about much of anything. Each day contained wonder and delight.

Of course, I couldn’t wait to grow up.

Now I look back and wish I’d enjoyed each stage a little more. Relished the days of not having any responsibility. Not crying over anything more than a skinned knee or bee sting. Not being aware of my flaws and weaknesses.

Growing up can be so complicated.

The day before Christmas, I read a post that deeply resounded with my beliefs about personality and the capacity to change. Dr. Kelly Flanagan wrote:

“Because figuring out who we are isn’t about making something new; it’s about seeing something old. There’s no such thing as identity formation; there is only identity recognition. There is only a new awareness of something original in us. In the end, we don’t make something of ourselves; we glimpse something of ourselves.”

We glimpse something of ourselves.

When January 1 rolls around each year, I’m tempted to opine about being a better version of myself. I might come up with One Word to guide me or list a few resolutions that will help me become a new and improved Leigh. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Only, I’ve come to believe I already have what I need.

I’m not the same person I was last year or five years ago or 15 years ago. And yet, I’ve been “me” all along.

Maybe it’s not so much about being new and improved, as it is trying to become more “me.” This would all be fruitless opining if I didn’t have a particular tool at my disposal: the Enneagram.

The Enneagram (pronounced any-uh-gram) is the study of the 9 basic types of people. It identifies our motivations, while also providing a pathway for individual growth. When viewed from a Christian lens, it helps us identify the ways we hide from ourselves and from God. (You can read more of an explanation here.)

While experts debate the exact origins of the Enneagram, most agree the nine types were based on Evagrius Ponticus’s eight deadly thoughts, plus the central thought he called “love of self.” We tend to be more familiar with the seven deadly sins, which took inspiration from Ponticus’s list. The Enneagram’s nine root struggles are anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust, and laziness.

If you haven’t gathered by now, learning your Enneagram type involves confronting your junk. Some people joke that you know you’ve figured out your type if it makes you feel awful about yourself. There’s a grain of truth there. I was horrified when I realized I was a Type Four.

However, I was also relieved to discover I was a Type Four. So many things about my life, reactions, and behavior made more sense after figuring out the motivation behind them. Plus, each root struggle has a complementary great gift. We each have the capacity to be healthy and whole, to do great good in the world. No type is better than another. We need all nine (healthy) types for the world to thrive.

The last 4+ years of knowing my Enneagram type has been an exercise in, as Dr. Flanagan would say, identity recognition.

I’m now in my mid-30s. I still prioritize my people and books, as well as other creative endeavors. Since those early years of childhood, I acquired hopes and fears, joys and struggles. Through it all, I’ve striven to be my most authentic self. (Classic Type Four.)

Knowing my Enneagram type has helped me become more myself, a person who is more content and less plagued by envy and comparison. True, I’ll never fully escape my root struggle. Also true: I’ve come up with better strategies to deal with and even circumvent it. Even more true than that: I now know what a healthy Type Four looks like and innately sense when I’m moving toward health or struggle. I am empowered.

It’s a day by day choice. I am imbued with hope.

I like the person I’m becoming, a person who reminds me of the unfettered childhood me. 2015 may be a new year but I’m the same me. And yet, I’m moving toward wholeness. Even my One Word testifies to growth and possibility. (And it also lines up with my Arrow of Integration!)

Here’s to the year ahead. May we all more fully recognize ourselves and like what we see.

If you’re interested in discovering your Enneagram type, The Enneagram Coach is here to help. Visit the Services tab to find out how. To learn more about the Enneagram, read the FAQs. These are my favorite books on the Enneagram.


Image credit: Lee