Do you know about the enneagram? It’s sort of making waves across the internet and there are people acting as if it’s some sort of sorcery but in reality, it’s not new at all. It’s just new to us. There is actually a long history to this way of understanding your personality. Even in typing this, I am over-simplifying it. It’s more than a personality test. The enneagram helps you to understand your dominant personality type, both in strengths and weaknesses, and how you interact with others. It delves into the traits you had when you were born and who you have become after all of your life experiences. But again, I am over simplifying it. I would really encourage you to take a test and see for yourself.
I am a Four. According to The Enneagram Institute, “Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.”
One of the biggest personality “things” about Fours is the tendency to take everything personally. But taking things personally isn’t limited to Fours. Really, all of us have moments of taking life entirely too personally. I have found that when I do this, I can spiral into shame. And usually, it’s for no reason because the thing I took personally wasn’t about me at all.
So if you, like me, find yourself making things about you that are zero percent about you, you might need to do some of the work I have been doing to stop. And if you, like me, find that, after some thinking, you have been making things about you for a really long time, this is important work to get started on today.
The first thing, the thing you need to start with, is realizing that other people’s actions are rarely about you. If someone is rude, grouchy, sad, pulls out in front of you in traffic, ignores you in the grocery store…it’s not about you. You don’t know what their life is like. You don’t know the day they’ve had. You don’t know. But what I can assure you of is it’s almost never about you.
The second thing for people like us is that we often struggle with constructive criticism. When someone suggests you use a different tool or drive a different route, you may, like me, immediately think, “They hate me and think I am stupid.” But I would encourage you to take a minute, take a breath, and ask yourself why this person is offering you this criticism. Do they care about you and want to see you save time/energy/money? Do they need you to be a part of their team and see ways you could add value? Is there anything you could learn from what they have offered? If yes, take the advice and move on. If no, don’t take the advice and move on. It really is that simple.
The third thing is to realize you will never please all the people all the time. Marilyn Monroe said something like, “You could be the sweetest and juiciest peach in the whole world and someone will tell you they don’t like peaches.” It’s true – the phrase, at least. I don’t know for sure if Marilyn Monroe said it.
I love big hair. I know people who don’t. I don’t understand those people, but their opinion doesn’t mean that big hair is wrong. I often drink wine from a box. Some people think that’s gross. I think it’s cost-efficient. We can both be right. Or we can both be wrong. But the reality is, I can live my life and you can live yours, and we don’t have to live them the same way.
The fourth thing is very important. Sometimes, you need to get an outside perspective. You see, people like you and me, we can get trapped in our brains and start spiraling in our own thoughts. We stand in the shower and prepare comebacks to arguments that never happen. We build energy on words that never were said. We imagine scenarios playing out in multiple ways, so we can be prepared.
But the reality is, the other person is going on with their life. They are making sandwiches, going to the library, watching Netflix… and they have no idea you are obsessing about the thing. So when this happens, it’s good to get another opinion. Ask a friend. Or a different friend. Call your cousin. Tell your therapist. But look for someone who is willing to give you some truth.
The fifth thing is to remember you are not the sum of your past. You are not a total of your mistakes. You are not a collection of every piece of criticism you have ever received. In fact, most people don’t know about your mistakes. The majority of people do not remember the times you fell down. Your true friends will remember the times you soared.
And finally, you have to understand that your self-worth depends on you and not what people say about you. You are a child of God. You are a unique creation. You are a blessing. You were created with love by the Creator of the Universe. When you can learn to live in that knowledge and see yourself through that lens, you can begin to believe that no one on this earth gets to label you. You get to walk in the truth that no one’s opinion of you matters more than His. And you begin to learn that no boss, no coworker, no sibling, no family member, no friend, no neighbor, no test gets to define who you were created to be.