Self Awareness: What feels like a burden, can become a beautiful gift.

Last winter, I was working down in Florida and one of my friends was reading a book. It looked intriguing, and I asked her what it was. “It’s called ‘The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery’ and I like it so far,” she said.

I had heard of the enneagram personality system very briefly and knew it was a little different than the Meyers-Briggs system. I honestly really loved taking a Meyers-Briggs quiz back in grad school. I have always felt, in small and big ways, like I must be the only person who sees and feels the way I do. I think we all on some level feel this way: no one really understands or resonates with me, my character flaws are so horrendous so I need to hide them, and will anyone really like me when they see the “real” me. So, when I took the MB test, my result was ISFJ.

The knowledge that there were others in the world who saw things the way I did was strangely comforting. Reading through the description of an ISFJ, I was deeply relieved to know that my way of living and seeing life wasn’t 100% unique to me. Of course, my own personality and experiences give me my own version of being an ISFJ, but knowing more of how my personality was wired to work was a gift. And then I found out that one of my closest friends is also an ISFJ, and another close friend is an ESFJ. No wonder we’ve always seemed to get each other right away without having to try very hard.

But, the one thing I did not do very well with this new information was read into the pitfalls of my personality. As a Christian, I know full well I am not a perfect person. And I know on a very deep level, that I don’t love myself the way God loves me. I see my flaws, hope to hide them, and distract myself from paying attention to them because who has time to sit in that? My time could be much better spent caring for those around me who need help. I want to help, and it’s how I show love, so that seems like a good idea, right?

Well, I finally sat down this summer and took an Enneagram test. Of course, the whole tricky thing about personality tests is that you have to be extremely self-aware to get an accurate result. Whether I like to admit it or not, I’m fairly self-aware of my strengths…and my weaknesses. My test results were fairly confusing: I was a 2 (but very closely was almost a 9) with a tie in my wings–an equal split of 1 and 3.

I didn’t know very much about how the whole system worked. So, of course, I ended up buying that book my friend had told me about months before. The whole point of the Enneagram is to better understand yourself and others so you can better connect and relate and understand your fellow human beings. So, I opened up the book and began to read. Of course, I right away started assigning numbers to close friends and family (which is not the point of learning this system–you can’t just assign things to people without actually letting them figure things out for themselves). And then I got to the chapter on 2s.

We are called “The Helper.” Ok, well, way to call me out. At the beginning of the chapter, the author has a list of things that are generally associated with that personality type, so as to better help the reader discern if that number fits them or not. Out of that list of 20 things, I checked off 19. And some of them weren’t great to admit to. Like no. 7: “It seems like people who love me should already know what I need.” Ok, just because no. 5 says “People think I’m psychic because I usually know what other people need or want,” doesn’t mean everyone else feels or functions that way. So yes, sometimes I think to myself “oh my gosh, are you kidding me, how does that person not see what I need right now,” but that’s not fair. If I need something, I should ask, right? Ok, no. 15: “when people ask me what I need, I have no idea how to answer.” See? I’m a paradox. Gosh, can’t you just know what I need even though I have no idea what it is? And also my personality prefers to give rather than to receive. So if receiving anything is slightly uncomfortable, but I want people to care for me how I care for them–do you see how this is a tangled web?

The short answer to this is that I want others to love and care for me the way I do for them, but my fundamental lie that is engrained in me is: I am unworthy of love. And isn’t that crazy? I mean, maybe it’s not. Without Christ, I’m not worthy. Of anything. Yes, this is my Calvinist rearing it’s ugly head (#totaldepravity). But, as my counselor recently told me, Christ believed I was worth dying on the cross for–so that means I’m worthy of quite a lot because of Him. So why does my brain believe I “live in a world in which [I] have to be needed before [I] can be loved.” Basically, my personality practically believes in a works righteousness mentality combined with a savior complex. So how do I reconcile this?

I’ve decided the only way I can, is by being honest with myself. If I see that these “flaws” are there, then examine them and see how through Christ, they can become gifts and not burdens. Help and care for people because it’s what God asks of me as His child, not because I think it will earn me affection, appreciation, validation, or love. Take care of myself the way I do others, because if my cup is empty, how can I pour into others? If I desperately wish I could help a friend avoid mistakes or see things clearly, speak in love and then pray. I can’t fix someone. I can’t make them see things the way I do. I have to stop trying to control my life. God already has that job and he really does not need my help.

Self-awareness can feel overwhelming and almost, if not completely, like a huge burden placed upon us. But it does not have to be. God created us in His image–He wants us to see ourselves how He does, to love ourselves the way He loves us. He does not want us to stay as we are, but to grow in Him. This is not possible unless we actually examine ourselves. Just because I have a relationship with Christ doesn’t mean I should be the same today as I was the first day I woke up to His work in me. I’d like to think I’m not in the same spiritual place I was at age 14. But it’s not an uphill climb. It’s a winding path through the forest. There’s a trail, but in my human nature, I feel that I can go off the path and explore sometimes, but my compass always will guide me back to that path.

I am not perfect. I am a human. And all I can do is take a real, deep look at myself and say “how can I become more like Christ? How can I silence the lies that I, and Satan, tell myself? How do I train myself to recognize the Truth over what this world’s experiences have engrained in me?”

The answer is Jesus. Yes, that same Sunday School answer still holds weight. Delve into His Word. Remind yourself that this world is not your true home, so while you’re here, learn and grow. Examine yourself–don’t take God’s grace for granted and assume he’ll just white out your stupidity and not make you aware of how you need to be better. I don’t want to stay the same! I want to be stronger, wiser, more loving, more caring, and deeply confident in who I am in Christ. So much so, that whenever people or circumstances shake me, I turn to Him and nothing else. He is sufficient.

So if you’ve made it this far in this absurdly long post, thank you. Self awareness can lead to self care and self love*. It does not have to be a burden of how much you dislike yourself. It can be the wake up call you needed so that God could redeem and refine every part of you that He made. I’ve felt, recently, that the things I thought were beautiful about myself have been used against me as the very things that have brought sadness and anger and confusion. This is a lie–it’s Satan taking what God has made and whispering “you’re never enough” in my ear. The things that make me who I am are to be cherished and seen as worthy of Christ’s love. He gave me those traits and quirks to make me His child, not to keep me from Him. So I’m learning. I’m rewiring the circuit board. It’s not easy, it’s not a short process, and it’s one that’s ongoing. But isn’t it better to run the race set before me than to sit in darkness? I don’t want to just sit through life–I want to run that race, build endurance, grow stronger, and come out victorious.

*Self-love as defined for the purposes of this blog post is learning to recognize and love yourself for who you are in Christ.

*All quotes taken from The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.*


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