Someone recently asked me about my enneagram four and how it shows up in my life. And for someone that is far too introspective, one would think that I would have a good answer. I didn’t really have a good answer then. But I have one now… I think…
Enneagram fours inherently believe that there’s something wrong with them, that there’s something missing or broken within them, and that everyone else someone has the secret sauce, somehow able to be a functioning human being, while we mere mortals — enneagram fours — somehow got the short end of the stick when God was giving out the goods.
It makes us feel insufficient and envious, always seeing our missing pieces in other people.
“Oh! They’re so good at relationships! If only I was good at relationships. Why can’t I be good at relationships.”
“Oh! They have a confidence that has allowed them to make choices for their life that they’re proud of. I wish I was confident. Why can’t I be confident?”
“Oh! That person is super artistic with everything they do, even fricken cocktails. I wish I was super artistic and good at cocktails. Why can’t I be good at cocktails?”
And instead of looking at what we already have, or better yet, recognize we want something and have the capacity to go after that something, to be that something, we settle for two things:
- Differentiate ourselves — Because if we’re super different, who can we compare ourselves to? We’re our own breed. But the problem with being our own breed is that we become lonely.
- Look for a rescuer — Because if I don’t have the secret sauce, maybe I can get it from someone else and survive this world through someone else. But this makes us become needy and desperate, terrified to lose our rescuer.
Throughout the years, both have rung true for me.
I remember as a kid, anything my brother did, I did the opposite, and the reason was simply because I didn’t want to compete and lose, validating my fears that I’m insufficient or incapable.
So if Nate liked the color red, I would like the color blue (I’m just now starting to allow red in my wardrobe). If Nate wanted to learn the drums, I would play the trumpet (Even though I genuinely hated the trumpet). If Nate learned how to whistle, I would learn how to snap (I’m 31; I still don’t know how to whistle).
While the strategy may safeguard my terrors of not feeling enough, it insulates me from others, making me feel further alone, and disenfranchise me from things I genuinely may like because I can’t like the same thing as someone else (Yes, I’m the dork who won’t order what everyone else is ordering even if it looks the best).
The only person that loses in this strategy is me. Me.
The same is true for the second strategy.
Ever since I was a little kid, I would pull away, seeing if someone would notice and chase me. We would all happily be playing pirates or the floor is lava or whatever make-believe game that makes life so fun as a kiddo, and then a feeling would sneak in: You’re not actually wanted. To prove to myself that I was, I’d make moments to be rescued, little moments to prove to myself that I was worth fighting for.
So I’d disappear from the group and walk the fence, seeing if anyone would notice. I would get quiet in the car and stew in my feelings, hoping someone would hear my silence. I offer to break up, not wanting to break up, because them saying they don’t want to break up feels like they’re picking me. I would volunteer to take the “harder road,” hoping someone would see me suffering, think it’s so noble, and offer to give me aid. As if playing tag wasn’t enough to satiate my desire for belonging. As if communicating my feelings wasn’t enough to prove that I am seen and heard. As if the relationship simply existing is enough of a reason to say they want to be with me. As if me telling myself, “You don’t need to suffer to prove anything. You can say ‘no’ and your value isn’t diminished.”
Which brings me to the big work of an enneagram four — being your own hero.
I literally cringe a little inside when writing this because my anxiety kicks up, saying, “Well then how do you really know that they care? How do you really know you matter to them?”
And I think the only thing that can make that anxiety shut up is, “When will the rescue be big enough to prove you matter to them? To forever silence your terror that you are wanted by them?”
The answer is never.
Over the years, I’ve had friends do fantastic things for me: Let me live with them for free. Pay for streaming services when college became too much. Rub my back as a panic attack forces my body to freeze.
Just yesterday, I had four people talk to me about how excited they are for my future, saying I’m more than capable, and that there’s a bright future.
But it didn’t hit. And my friends’ love didn’t drive the deadbolt home on the door of anxiety of not being enough. And getting yet another text message from the person I want to pick me won’t curb the appetite. And having yet another stranger pick me from a grid of half-naked boys will never drive out the silence that says I’m not wanted, that I’m not enough.
Because ultimately, the reason I feel like I’m not enough is because I believe I’m not enough, and no manner of external validation will ever be enough, or worse, I’ll become terrified that I’ll lose it, so I’ll modify who I am and my behavior to keep getting it, always terrified the tap will turn off.
When I think of when this message came online, there’s one scene that always comes to mind: Middle school dodgeball, a moment more traumatizing than all the evangelical trauma I faced growing up in a megachurch.
We all remember (at least the boys, at least the gay boys). We all stand on the wall, the cool kids somehow always being the team captains. One by one they choose who they like who matters who can offer something to the team that can make them win.
I was always last on the wall. Scrawny, day-dreaming, sensitive Brandon is not the best member of a dodgeball team, and the emotional torture would wear in a scar, a scar that said, “No one wants to pick you,” and I think a lot of my life, whether through a text message, going silent, hitchhiking, or writing a moody post like this one, I’m fishing for a small “picking” of me. Will they reply? Will someone reach out? Will people read this? Will someone call my name as I stand on the wall?
Through all these little or big moments, I’m wanting someone else to do the work of picking me. But my work is me picking me, of me calling my own name, of believing I’m more than enough and have something got offer to my own team.
There’s a verse in the Bible. It talks about being the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s often been used to guilt Christians into doing better (If we are the body, why aren’t his hands reaching?). And while I do believe humans experience divinity through the kindness and light of other humans is important, I think it’s important work to realize “I have to be the loving hands of God for myself. I have to be Immanuel, God with me, for me.”
In therapy, my therapist would bring up self-love, and I would get angry.
“It just feels like an excuse to treat yourself and not care about how much money is in your bank account.”
“Interesting. It seems your idea of self-love is more about self-indulgence when I think of self-love as being more of being a good parent to yourself. Sure, sometimes you had a rough day and you treat yourself to a cookie, like a loving parent. And sometimes, it’s also making the hard choices that, in love, are looking out for the welfare of who you are. Things like working out. Getting a job you believe in. Creating discipline that looks out for your ultimate good.” (Well, fuck you too, Jesse.)
In the wake of coming back from Korea without a career and without a car and without a house and without a plan, I feel really naked and bare. It’s easy for me to think I’m not capable and that I need a hero (enter Fairy God Mother). But the hero is within. And part of self-confidence and believing that I am capable is showing up for myself, proving that I am. Proving myself to me. So that I can, in good conscience, pick myself from the wall, to say I have more than enough to offer and that I can succeed.
I have to be the hands and feet of Jesus for myself, knowing that if he were here in the flesh, he would pick me and believe in me, like he did for everyone he came into contact with.
It’s just really fucking hard work.