Infinite stores of creativity, out-of-the-box ingenuity, high emotional intelligence, and originality—we Enneagram 4s have so much going for us!
And yet, the driving force behind our motivation is often a deep-seated feeling that we’re somehow flawed. Sometimes, we get stuck in this endless image of ourselves as flawed creatures who are somehow incapable of achieving the depth of happiness we see others attain, while the positives get completely overlooked.
Specific to the Enneagram Type 4’s fear of being flawed is their fear of rejection. Rejection tends to make Type 4s feel utterly worthless. If someone rejects them, it can make them hurt for the longest time. So, they avoid it, and this causes them to shy away from opportunities they would never have missed if they were clear-headed.
Now, life is full of rejection—in the workplace, job opportunities, relationships. It’s unavoidable, and that means Type 4s need to conquer their fear of rejection to keep moving forward.
What does rejection feel like to a Type 4?
I first learned I was an Enneagram Type 4 a few years ago, long after taking the 16 personality type test and discovering I’m an INFJ (a fun fact is many INFJs are Enneagram Type 4s). If you or someone you know is a Type 4, you may have a few “ah-ha” moments when you first read about the unique Enneagram type, which makes up about 11 percent of the population. Rejection is one of Type 4s most significant struggles in their personal growth journey, and therefore, a topic all 4s can learn from.
Nobody likes rejection, but to a Type 4, it can be a harrowing experience that causes them to replay what I call their “self-doubt tapes.” Think of it as an Mp3 track or an old VHS tape you have used to record your favorite reruns on, but the reruns you get are not what you want to hear.
There’s a term for playing doubts and negativity on repeat in psychoanalysis called the Inner Critic. You may not pay so much attention to your Inner Critic in your day-to-day life, but when you’re experiencing a rejection, it surfaces and spreads like wildfire to the point where the self-doubt becomes paralyzing.
How quickly you’re able to silence the Inner Critic depends on whether you’re in a healthy or unhealthy pattern of behavior.
When an Enneagram Type 4 is evolving in a pattern of growth (Integration), rejection may not sting as much. A highly evolved Type 4 is far more accepting of themself, therefore, less prone to sensitivity when rejected.
At the baseline or average level, a Type 4 will appear hypersensitive to criticism (even combative at times) but remain strong about their experience and what they believe. However, the average Type 4 will feel raw when rejected, and though they may not show it, they will experience self-doubt for days.
When Type 4 is disintegrating under stress (at an unhealthy level), this is when they are most sensitive to rejection. An unhealthy Type 4 may think rejection reflects upon them and their flaws, making them feel depressed, lost, and broken while prompting those self-doubt tapes to play on repeat for even longer than the average Type 4.
The rejection I’ve felt in my life has occurred in many forms—lost job opportunities, failed performance auditions, failed relationships, hopeful-but-disinterested partners, criticism, aloof family members—you name it, I’ve felt it. It’s easy to recognize when you may have overreacted or taken something personally when it wasn’t. The good news is, everyone struggles with this. It’s a little more difficult for a Type 4 to grasp and overcome, but growth is always possible.
Here’s how to cope.
Learning to roll with it
The most obvious, healthy way to overcome a fear of rejection is to take rejection in your stride by doing a mental check. It requires practice, but you can teach yourself to visualize a checklist of questions reaffirming why this rejection wasn't personal.
For example, if I were to submit a pitch for a writing job and find I was rejected, it’s not to do with my writing ability. I ask myself, how many other people are applying? Is this a sought-after publication? Are there people out there with more years of experience than me? Has someone just had a better story idea? The answer to most of those questions are affirmations—it’s not that I’m not good enough, it’s that the publication had other business priorities. Mostly, it’s a matter of “the right place, the right time.”
It’s hard to remember to run through your checklist, but it becomes easier with time if you practice giving yourself enough credit for your pursuits.
Practice words of affirmation
It’s really easy to use positive affirmations as a way to boost self-confidence—simply say your strengths, goals, desires, achievements, and whatever speaks to you aloud. Repeat them a couple of times a day or when you feel you need a boost. By repeating positive thoughts, psychological studies—such as a 2016 study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and research from the Association for Psychological Science—suggest you become more receptive to learning from and recognizing your mistakes.
You’ll also notice an uplift in your positive evaluation of yourself, and find you are able to recover from blows to your self-esteem.
Learn from criticism, but don’t take it to heart
Enneagram 4s have a vivid emotional spectrum and, though we recognize it as a resounding strength in many ways, it’s also detrimental to personal growth when we let our emotions define our response to rejection.
Sometimes, criticism feels a lot like rejection when it’s to do with something near to your heart. For Type 4s, this is our creative work. Most Type 4s feel defined by their creations, so when someone offers a negative critique of your piece, like a painting, a poem, or a song, it may be hard for you to accept the feedback with grace.
However, it’s essential to learn from feedback to grow, and remember it is never personal when it’s another form of business. Especially when you’re trying to make a living from your art, any constructive feedback you get will help you learn—even if it stings because you had your hopes up.
One of the most challenging forms of rejection is in relationships. Whether you've been through a hard breakup or the end of the friendship, when a relationship ends, it's easy for an Enneagram Type 4 to question whether they were the reason it wasn't a success.
Although relationships take two people to work, a Type 4 should avoid letting their negative emotions and thoughts overtake them. Type 4s will blame themself for everything—including unrelated factors of the other person’s character—and since they are such empathetic types with a heavy sense of shame, they almost prefer to believe the faults were theirs. Furthermore, Type 4s are prone to idealizing their partners, which leaves them susceptible to toxic relationship patterns such as being gaslighted by a narcissist.
When reflecting on why a relationship failed, an Enneagram Type 4 should try to be objective when looking at the situation. Avoid letting your feelings come into the mix and reverting to the objective viewpoint, because that will often lead you down the path of self-doubt if you’re not careful.
Summing It Up
For most Type 4s, it’s about where you’re at in your journey of learning to cope with the fear of rejection. Coping skills and self-acceptance don’t happen overnight, and it’s important to remember you’re the toughest critic you have. Type 4s must learn to accept and trust themselves without focusing on this feeling of “missing a piece” of what other people have. Dealing with rejection is a part of life, and when you decide to accept it as a lesson, you grow even more.