By Cam Lawrence
Art courtesy of Steven Aitchison
I’m sensitive and dramatic. When I’m moody, I tend toward self-pity.
I’m a four, so this all makes sense. Learning my enneagram has validated my quirky personality, granting me more confidence.
Most St. Mary’s students are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) — in fact, 92 percent of those who responded to a survey of upper school students know of the MBTI, but only 72 percent know of the Enneagram. While lots of students seem to know either of these, 34 percent do not know or perhaps care which one is even better.
While the MBTI has its place, the Enneagram is better.
It is better because it explains parts of ourselves that we do not express outwardly. It tells us more about who we are on a deeper psychological level rather than telling us about our daily habits, like the MBTI does.
The Enneagram is a spectrum of numbers from one to nine with each number representing a different type. These types outline how people might react to situations and assigns each type a basic fear and desire. Usually, everyone connects with at least two or three different types, but there is always that one type that we connect to very deeply. While many people take a test to find out what their Enneagram is, the best way to find your Enneagram is to read about all of the different types. A 50-question test is ultimately incapable of deciphering the deepest truths, desires and fears that you hold within yourself.
The MBTI has 16 different types that represent the following traits: extraverted or introverted, intuitive or sensitive, feeling or thinking, perceiving or judging. The MBTI is commonly used in schools as it shows the reasons for certain habits that pertain to how we study, act in class, interact with friends and get things done.
The MBTI can be particularly useful to understanding why we do things. Mind and body wellness teacher Ms. Seebeck spent a couple of weeks with the freshmen talking about the MBTI. She said, “I enjoy using the Myers-Briggs with students because the inventory was created to help people find a career or job-type thing that may best suit their personality characteristics. I think introducing the Myers Briggs now can open your mind to new directions and maybe later down the road; you guys may think of it again and reflect on it.”
However, the MBTI has its flaws. It makes us feel as if we have to do whatever our type says we do. It shows us how we view the world and boxes us in, whereas the Enneagram shows us what box we put ourselves in. Ms. Seebeck said, “The Enneagram allows more freedom. Often, people feel like the MBTI is too ‘cookie cutter.’” It explains to us why we cry when we cry, why we want what we want, and why we fight for our passions. The Enneagram reveals what is going on in the unconscious part of the mind, while the MBTI explains the cognitive part. Both of these very different personality-type identifiers allow us to discover and understand more about ourselves, but the most beneficial one of the two is the Enneagram.
The Enneagram allows you to be able to assess yourself while in different emotional situations. Perhaps you are overreacting in an argument with a friend. The Enneagram can explain the best way for you to understand yourself in that argument or understand your friend, if you know their Enneagram. The Enneagram, if used in these kinds of situations, can create empathy and vulnerability between people. Kate Stukenborg (12) says, “[The Enneagram] has a focus on learning not only about my type but other people’s types so that I can better understand them and make them feel secure and loved according to their personal needs, whether that means giving them personal space, letting them help me, or listening to their anxiety without judgement.”
Students may be drawn towards either the MBTI, Enneagram or perhaps both. “I prefer the Enneagram to other personality types,” says Stukenborg, “not only because I think it gives me a really accurate representation of me, but also because it has such a focus on self-improvement, according to your strengths and weaknesses.”
Georgia Carls (9) prefers the MBTI, explaining, “Myers-Briggs gives you a more in depth review of your personality type. It gives me clarity on why I do certain things or how I behave in relationships. I also think it is cool that it gives little details about different roles in specific areas.”
The MBTI is very useful in the classroom, but the Enneagram is best for making mindful decisions which could intimately affect your life.
Simply taking an Enneagram test is not beneficial in discovering your type. The best place to learn about the Enneagram is by reading all the types on the Enneagram Institute website. Another way to learn more is by attending the upcoming fireside chat on the Enneagram on Nov. 20, led by Meghan Aslin and me.
For & By Students
Our website videos were made in partnership with St. Mary's video-making publication, Bella Vista.
Click on the author or artist's name to view more of her work!
HAVE AN ARTICLE IN MIND?