"How do you spell it?" my friend asked.
"E-N-N-E-A-G-R-A-M. Enneagram." I said.
"And what is it?" she asked again.
The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system. It has Christian monk roots and is currently making a resurgence in helping businesses, churches, and your average Joe understand themselves a bit better. In college, I'm a Psychology major, and the Enneagram is the first personality typer that I felt actually gave me real handholds for why I have the insecurities I do and what I can do to grow.
There are several academic books about the tool if you want a more historical and intellectual read, but, I read The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile which is an accessible primer for the Enneagram.
The whole premise of the Enneagram is that our personalities are defense mechanisms and coping strategies that we developed against harmful messages we all received in childhood. I know, I know. It sounds harsh and like a big sweeping generalization. But the second premise is that our true selves, shielded by broken personalities, are beautiful and worth letting out. It's not some weird tool that says, "Who you think you are isn't who you really are." It's a tool that says, "You know who you are and I want to give you the bravery and know-how to live it to the full."
I love it. Each personality is labeled as a number One through Nine. What sets the numbers apart aren't their outer traits (like other personality typers), but the insecurities that they deal with. For example, I'm a Two: also called The Helper. The Enneagram says my main insecurity in life is that I'm not lovable (my dozens of journals that I've kept throughout my life reflect the same worry). The Enneagram says that many of the questions I ask myself go something like this, "Will they reject me if I do this?" "Do they love me just the way I am?" "Am I being as helpful as I could be?" "Do they see me as a burden?" The Two copes with this insecurity and fear of rejection by helping people and suppressing her own needs and desires. For Twos, it's hard to separate being needed from being loved; That's why they want to help and have an incredible fear of appearing needy or high maintenance. When I read about the Two in The Road Back to You, I gritted my teeth and realized I'd been found out. And being found out meant that I couldn't stay where I was.
Thankfully, the Enneagram also provides tools to overcome these insecurities and to live unabashedly myself. Which, for me, looks like understanding that I can be loved without being needed and that expressing my own needs and wants won't automatically lead to rejection.
With the Enneagram as the starting gun, I set off on an intentional journey to break free from these old and unwelcome insecurities. And, of course, the only foolproof way of getting free is getting into The Word.
One night, I decided to write myself a letter: a letter from my strong self, my true and secure identity, to my weak self, my dead and gone sinful nature. Before I started in, I read through Colossians where several verses stood out to me in my war on insecurities.
Col. 1:4-5a, "For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God's people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven."
Col. 1:9b-10, "We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow and you learn to know God better and better."
Col. 1:13, "For He [God] has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave us our sins."
Col. 1:22-23b, "Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firm in it. Don't draft away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News."
Col. 3:1-3, "Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God."
What are all these saying? The only way out of insecurity is to stubbornly dwell on our true identity in Christ, our inheritance as God's children, and our high calling on this earth. We can know the truth about ourselves and what we own in the spiritual, but, if we don't fight for it, it doesn't matter because the enemy is fighting to keep us trapped in lies. Here's the truth about insecurities: they are cardboard protections from false identities. They are what we use instead of truth to heal the places we've been wounded. Whenever my insecurities would flare up and try to steal my peace and true identity, I used to be extra harsh on myself. "You should know better, Taylor. You know the truth. Get over yourself." But now I see that beating myself up when I'm already down isn't at all the same thing as grasping onto stronger truths. My insecurities are nothing more than an invitation into deeper intimacy with God. To get there, I have to stand firm, not drift, and practice confident hope. I want that spiritual wisdom and understanding about my identity and inheritance in Jesus so that my life will produce good fruit and I will see Jesus' face all the more clearly.
My identity and God's identity have to be in tact in my mind to hold my purpose and inheritance well. Insecurities are an unwelcome onslaught to my identity in order to break down my faith in walking out my calling and claiming my eternal inheritance.
Probably my least favorite thing about insecurities are that they discourage trust: trust of myself, trust in others, and trust in God. If we let our ability to trust be taken away, we've also given up our capacity to have intimacy with anyone. Trust and intimacy go hand in hand. If I live my life convinced of rejection before it even happens, I've walk around in hiding. But giving someone the keys to my heart looks like trusting them with all the stuff I've got stowed away. Walking the journey of intimacy with anyone--even the Lord--begins with purposing to trust them.
I can choose to trust my insecurities or God. I can choose to trust my insecurities or The Word. I can choose to trust my insecurities or my boyfriend and friends.
You get intimate with what and who you trust. I'd rather leave my insecurities in the darkness they belong to than keep meeting up with them.
I learned in entrepreneurship that change won't take place without a few key elements. Two of those elements are dissatisfaction with your current state and a vision for where you want to be. Lucky for Christians, we don't have to fabricate an original vision or just shoot in the dark for something we hope would be greater than our current state. We don't have to be original because Jesus has told us who we are and what we are made for and where we are headed. I'd rather get familiar and intimate with Jesus and what He says about me so when my insecurities come knocking, they'll quickly see that the relationship is over and done.
And I did end up writing that letter to myself.
You are absolutely capable and built for the life you dream of. You are not one to let regret creep in easily. You are brave and inspiring. You are completely lovable and you have permission and God's eagerness to show your full colors at all times. You so keenly feel when you dull yourself on purpose or by fear and you hate it. You are totally conscious that your peace is robbed when you succumb to less than your dreams and energy give you. You hate that more than anything. You want to burst free and fast and not look back. What keeps you locked and longing? Nothing more powerful that you and your God. Nothing worth even an ounce of your attention. You have to grasp your calling. Take it by force. Claim it. It can never be stolen, only given up. And that scratches your soul to no end. You know your only choice is to succeed and die empty because you've held nothing back. Or else, what have you done? Protected a shell of you that needed to be put off a long time ago. Break free sister. In the big and small ways. Break free. You will love it and it will get easier. You need you. Soak in your life. Let your heart be moved for then you will move others. God is already so moved by you.
*The Enneagram also has helpful tools for relationships, teams dynamics, and productivity. For me and Jordan, the Enneagram has been invaluable for understanding each other and loving one another more compassionately and fully. And for my work, it gave me much desired affirmation and freedom that what I have to offer is actually needed and worthwhile. Furthermore, the Enneagram gives each number a Stress number, Security number, and a Wing number to help further understand yourself when you're stressed, in your sweet spot, and what other numbers you resemble and why.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.