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Seeing yourself beyond your type

The deeper we delve into Enneagram knowledge, the more we understand one of its most important purposes: helping us see how clinging to a specific Enneagram type keeps us separate from our present experiences. The more we feel attached to our personality type, the less we can see who we truly are. For instance, if we identify with being strong, it becomes difficult to express vulnerability when we genuinely feel that way. Similarly, if we believe we must always be hard workers, it becomes harder to accept that we might feel tired and need rest. The stronger our attachment to certain qualities, the harder it is to recognize the opposite qualities that are also part of us.

These can be called shadow qualities, which we judge and devalue, convincing ourselves that we are not those qualities. The more effort we put into denying them, the more energy we invest in proving to ourselves and our ego: “I am not this or that.” As we progress through different phases of Enneagram knowledge—first discovering our dominant type, then understanding it on a deeper level—we reach a healing stage where we become more open to the truth about ourselves. We might realize that sometimes we are vulnerable, that our body feels tired even if our mind keeps going. This openness allows us to acknowledge how we truly feel in the moment and recognize our true self, beyond our preconceived identity.

By being open to ourselves, we cultivate inner acceptance, enabling us to move beyond the fixation on one Enneagram type and notice that we embody qualities from all nine types. Enneagram knowledge asserts that while we have a dominant type that remains constant throughout our lives, inner work reveals that we possess traits from all types.

Recently, we discovered a handbook titled "Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram" by Adele and Doug Calhoun and Clare and Scott Loughrige. The book includes a section exploring the qualities each type associates with “I am” and those they do not associate with, called “I am not.” The authors have done an excellent job selecting words that, when reviewed honestly, can awaken us to the realization that we can express ourselves through both sections, even if we don’t typically identify with the “I am not” qualities. This section encourages us to see ourselves not only through our admirable type qualities but also with honesty, accepting our imperfections as part of life. 

We invite you to explore the table created for your type. Notice how you feel about the “I am” section. Are there qualities that don’t resonate with you? If so, we encourage you to reflect on any situations in your life where you might have expressed that quality. Similarly, consider the “I am not” section. Think about situations where you might have displayed those qualities, even if you felt forced or reluctant. Take a further step and think about what situations or behaviors trigger you to act in those ways.


Here are examples for each Enneagram type:


I AM: Good, Right, Upright, Moral, Righteous, Just, Principled, Upstanding, Firm, Fair, Ethical, Idealistic, Responsible, Reliable, Dependable, Professional, Committed, Careful, Persistent, Critical, Strict, Opinionated, Organized, Meticulous, High standards, Standard-bearer, Thorough, Tidy.

I AM NOT: Bad, Wrong, Immoral, Unethical, Unjust, Lawbreaker, Loose, Wishy-washy, Arbitrary, Unethical, Realistic, Irresponsible, Fair-weather friend, Undependable, Amateur, Uninvolved, Careless, Quitter, Tolerant, Forgiving, Tolerant, Disorganized, Impulsive, Slipshod, Compromising, Haphazard, Sloppy.


I AM: Helpful, Needed, Indispensable, Generous, Caring, Supportive, Nurturing, Loving, Lovable, Peaceful, Caring, Empathetic, Sympathetic, Sensitive, Thoughtful, Considerate, Responsive, Ready, Feeling, Intuitive, Observant, Attentive, Serving, Self-sacrificing, Altruistic, Warm, Hospitable, Friendly.

I AM NOT: Selfish, Needy, Useless, Petty, Uncaring, Destructive, Violent, Hate, Angry, Aggressive, Neglectful, Uncaring, Heartless, Indifferent, Thoughtless, Inconsiderate, Unresponsive, Unconcerned, Cold, Insensitive, Callous, Inattentive, Stingy, Self-centered, Self-absorbed, Unwelcoming, Alone.


I AM: Successful, Productive, Connected, Competent, Capable, Accomplished, Organized, Get things done, Fast, Promoter, Brilliant, Bottom line, Leader, Winner, Networker, Savvy, Slick, Organized, Attractive, Looking good, Confident, Self-assured, Sociable, Hard-worker.

I AM NOT: Failure, Inactive, Alone, Incompetent, Incapable, Indolent, Disorganized, Time waster, Lethargic, Wait and see, Mediocre, Bogged down, Follower, Flop, Drifter, Sticky, tacky, Disorganized, Unattractive, Slob, Diffident, Loser, Shy, Lazy.


I AM: Original, Different, Creative, Special, Extraordinary, Remarkable, Unique, Exciting, Unpredictable, Lonely, Elite, Classy, Stylish, Flamboyant, Intuitive, Empathetic, Imaginative, Individualist, Refined, Sophisticated, Tasteful, Deep.

I AM NOT: Copy, Dull, Unimaginative, Typical, Ordinary, Mundane, Banal, Boring, Routine, Gregarious, Trendy, Tasteless, Off the rack, Common, Obtuse, linear, Insensitive, Literal, Groupie, Rough, Boorish, Tacky, Superficial.


I AM: Wise, Perceptive, Astute, Witty, Aware, Observant, Curious, Good listener, Thorough, Whole picture, Synthesizing, Analyzer, Undemonstrative, Contained, Contemplative, Mystic, Studious, Reserved, Serious, Pedantic.

I AM NOT: Foolish, Naïve, Stupid, Dull, Oblivious, Gullible, Unaware, Inaction, Intrusive, Unprepared, Myopic, Trivializing, Flaky, Feeling, Effusive, Inaction, Simplistic, Unreflective, Flamboyant, Silly, Entertaining.


I AM: Loyal, Devoted, Faithful, Responsible, Trustworthy, Dependable, Dutiful, True blue, Enduring, Persistent, Hospitable, Warm, Kind, Friendly, Communal, Vigilant, Awake, Fearful, Prudent, Obedient, Careful.

I AM NOT: Disloyal, Traitor, Treacherous, Irresponsible, Rebellious, Undependable, Fickle, Mixed bag, Flaky, Flighty, Rude, Cool, Mean, Unfriendly, Isolated, Difficult, Negligent, Lights out, Relaxed, Reckless, Disobedient, Negligent.


I AM: Joyful, Fun, Happy, Free, Spontaneous, Enthusiastic, Bubbly, Playful, Funny, Witty, Quick-witted, Naïve, Youthful, Whimsical, Energetic, Animated, Active, Alert, Exciting, Interesting, Multi-talented, Friendly.

I AM NOT: Joyless, Serious, Sad, Rigid, Predictable, Dull, Flat, Workaholic, Solemn, Humorless, Slow, Jaded, Old, Routine, Lethargic, Expressionless, Passive, Asleep, Bland, Tedious, Modest, Hostile.


I AM: Strong, Powerful, Magnanimous, Self-sufficient, Independent, Assertive, Confrontational, Challenging, Revolutionary, In charge, In control, My way, Boss, Passionate, Energetic, Impulsive, Hardworking, Industrious, Forceful, Intimidating, Aggressive, Fearless, Hard, Rough, Tough, Invincible.

I AM NOT: Weak, Impotent, Small, Needy, Dependent, Push-over, Avoidant, Wimp, Slave, Subordinate, Helpless, Accommodating, Subservient, Ambivalent, Phlegmatic, Procrastinator, Easy going, Lazy, Shy, Meek, Timid, Fearful, Soft, Smooth, Bleeding heart, Vulnerable.


I AM: Peaceful, Harmonious, Fair, Comfortable, Serene, Relaxed, Easygoing, Balanced, Easy, Noble, plodding, Unflappable, Unexcitable, Stable, Avoid conflict, Patient, Ecumenical, Inclusive, Cool, Laid back, Calm, Accommodating, Uninvolved, Uncommitted, Creature of habit.

I AM NOT: Frantic, Hassled, Biased, Edgy, Driven, Energetic, Ambitious, Imbalanced, Aggressive, Quick, Emotionally expressive, Nervous, Erratic, Conflicted, Pushy, Bigoted, Excluding, Hotheaded, Type A, Upset, Controlling, Passionate, Decisive, Unpredictable.


Not all the words written for your type might resonate with you. Some might reflect your past experiences, while others might not mean anything to you. However, you will likely find at least a few that catch your attention and trigger something within you. These words are important as they can reveal something new about you—something you might want to explore further, especially if it plays a significant role in your life at the moment. 

After exploring how these words apply to your life, take conscious awareness of when they become important in your day-to-day experiences. They can serve as a catalyst for gaining a deeper understanding of the parts of yourself that might need attention now.

Credit to Adele and Doug Calhoun, Clare and Scott Loughrige, "Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram".



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