May 2022 Issue | How To Use Your Enneagram Type To Lead With More Confidence
By Kelli Thompson
In a gray, windowless conference room, sitting in an all-day meeting, I felt frustrated because the conversation was going in circles and we heard the same voices over and over again. Deep voices droned on for hours while my patience dwindled as topics were rehashed over and over. Finally, during a bathroom break, I asked myself why I felt so annoyed.
I realized that most of the people speaking in the meeting were men.
“Are there more men than women here today?” I wondered. But the room was mostly equal in gender. However, the women were predominantly silent. I felt resentful. “Why don’t these women speak up?!” My ‘a-ha’ moment was the voice in my head that said, “You could speak up.” This thought terrified me.
It’s estimated that 70% of all individuals experience imposter syndrome while 95% of us lack self-confidence at some point in our life. Imposter syndrome is a behavioral pattern where people (even those with external evidence of success) doubt their abilities and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. While imposter syndrome is relatively common among all adults, it tends to affect marginalized people harder.
Once I recognized that it was imposter syndrome that kept me from speaking up, I used the Enneagram model to support the inner growth work I needed to stand up for myself. This model offers a system of personality typing that describes patterns that can impact motivation and self-limiting beliefs.
The Enneagram model represents nine different personality types. Each personality type includes dominant behaviors, motivators, and fears. Beyond this, the Enneagram model is more complex and includes 27 different subtypes as well as three key “centers” focused on action, feeling, and thinking. Reading about the different Enneagram types offered me a whole new level of awareness. More importantly, it gave me a path out of my sabotaging behaviors.
Here are four ways you can use your Enneagram type to improve your leadership skills and beat self-doubt:
Notice your nagging thoughts.
As a leadership coach, I see this often. People fail to notice that their anxieties and insecurities are holding them back. They just accept them. Knowing your Enneagram type can give you a clue into what triggers your unhelpful thought tracks so you don’t get lost in these expensive thoughts.
Identify your fears.
Name, address, and question these fears. It could be “I fear people won’t accept me or my ideas at work” or “I fear failure when taking on bigger projects.” By naming your fear, it takes away much of its power, making it easier to overcome. In my case, my Enneagram type 5 allowed me to point to my core fear of feeling incapable or unprepared. I often doubted my knowledge and capabilities and didn’t speak up.
Face your fears head-on.
Once you have identified your fears, it becomes easier to act against them. When I struggled to speak up, I reminded myself that the Enneagram model offers paths for growth through what it calls “lines.” My growth line is to an Enneagram 8, so I would often ask myself, “What would an Enneagram 8 do? They would probably be direct and assertive in this meeting.” Since Enneagram 8s are known for challenging things, speaking up comes easily to them. Asking myself these questions and acknowledging that I can speak up made it easier for me to act against my imposter syndrome.
This also allowed me to question if these fears were based on reality. Was I indeed incapable? Or was the workplace environment not conducive? Every step before this allowed me to finally get to the point of clarity — that what I had to say was worth expressing.
Acknowledge that your self-doubt is normal.
More than half of the American population experiences imposter syndrome. I’m all too familiar with the anxiety of feeling like a fraud or being “found out” by what I assume to be more capable colleagues. But usually, these fears only exist in our heads. Rather than beating yourself up about it, recognize that many of us, especially women, have been socialized to doubt ourselves.
Of course, the Enneagram framework isn’t a completely foolproof way of combating imposter syndrome. But it is a great starting point because it helps you discover the fears and sabotaging behaviors that hold you back and provides a path for growth to your truest, most confident self. I know that I’m going to have to be overcoming imposter syndrome for the rest of my life. Thanks to learning my Enneagram number, I have the tools to do so.