You’ve seen it before and perhaps been guilty of it yourself:
A Type Four who is convinced they’re a Type Six because they struggle with anxiety.
Or, a Type Seven who thinks they’re a Type Three because they’re always hustling.
Perhaps you know a Type Nine who resonates with all the types and confuses themselves with another number.
Mistyping is way more common than you might think, and it happens for several reasons. The first is when too much weight is placed on behavioral characteristics. (Remember, the Enneagram personality system is not about what you do, it’s about why you do it!) There are without a doubt many similarities between types—for example, a Type Two and Type Nine both may exhibit people-pleasing behaviors, however, the motivation behind this tendency couldn’t be more different.
Another reason people mistype is based on their “health” or level of development at the time they took the test or read about their type. A lower than average One, for instance, may look similar to an average Four, or a lower than average Eight may isolate themselves like a Five. To add even more fuel to the fire, there are also subtypes and tritypes to take into consideration.
Long story short, human beings are complex and each type is going to look a little different from person to person. It’s perfectly acceptable if you’re not a textbook definition of your type, but it is important to know your core type if you’re going to use the Enneagram for deeper self-awareness.
To get rid of some of the confusion surrounding how different types can show up, here are some of the most common myths of each type debunked.
Myth: They’re inflexible and rigid. Fact: Ones are keen on living out their beliefs, values, and ideals. While that may look black and white for some, other Ones believe the world is best understood in shades of grey and tend to be more flexible, open-minded, and passionate about expressing themselves—especially healthy ones that have access to Seven.
Myth: They’re obsessive neat freaks. Fact: Ones are less focused on controlling their external environment and more focused on controlling their internal state. They rely on their inner standards to guide their sense of good and bad and of right and wrong. What’s “good” to one One might be keeping a tidy space, while another One finds it “good” to perfect their relationships—it manifests differently from person to person depending on their value system.
Myth: They always think they’re right. Fact: Ones will always do what they think is right but that doesn’t mean they think they know everything. In fact, they’re always striving for improvement and many are very aware that they have much to learn. However, their actions will always reflect what aligns with their own definition of “rightness.”
Myth: They’re always sweet, nice, and helpful. Fact: Twos value building relationships and getting people to like them, but any type can be sweet, nice, and helpful. While some Twos may be more inclined to drop everything and come cheer you up, other Twos are mindful of when and where they give, and carry a much more serious presence. Some Twos even come off as withdrawn, especially when they repress their needs or anxieties to not stress other people out.
Myth: They’re subservient. Fact: Twos put others’ needs before their own stemming from their motivation to be loved and needed. With this, they carry a secret sense of pride for being less needy than others, believing there’s power in knowing what other people need. They use this to build strong relationships and get ahead in their career, and many find success through their natural people-oriented abilities.
Myth: They’re passive and easy to walk all over. Fact: Twos have a reputation of being selfless and accommodating, not always knowing what they want. When Twos have a dominant social instinct, they tend to be more direct in asserting themselves and pursuing their goals. Most Twos are also very aware of when and where they are taken advantage of. When they feel their giving is not reciprocated, this causes them to move to Eight where repressed anger seeps out, often to the shock of others.
Myth: They’re all workaholics. Fact: Simply put, Threes want to be the best, and while that often comes with the stereotype of late nights at the office, being the best doesn’t always equate to work. They are motivated by being valued and seen as successful by others. While that can be CEO status for some, for others it’s winning a triathlon, being the most popular person at school, or having the ideal family—whatever they perceive the best to be.
Myth: They’re inauthentic and lack emotional depth. Fact: Average Threes can struggle with authenticity, but it’s not because they lack depth—they’re just not always aware of it! On their quest for success, they morph their image to fit what looks good or who they think others want them to be and lose contact with their true self. Behind this is shame around who they really are, as they have a strong fear of rejection. Healthy Threes, and those with access to their Four wing, are more in touch with their emotional side and take pride in showing up as their full selves.
Myth: They always want to be in the spotlight. Fact: Threes are not always going to be the networking schmoozer, the loudest one at the meeting, or the center of attention in your friend group. Threes with a self-preservation instinct are typically disinterested and even uncomfortable with attention thrown their way. They prefer to blend in, work hard, and be self-sufficient.
Myth: They’re always sad. Fact: Fours over-identify with their emotions and especially tend to internalize negativity. However, this doesn’t mean they’re perpetually sad or unhappy, nor that if you identify with sadness, you’re a type Four. They feel like they’re missing something that others have and look to find fulfillment through their purpose—while experiencing a full spectrum of emotions along the way.
Myth: They’re dramatic attention-seekers. Fact: While Fours are searching for validation of their unique identity, many are uncomfortable with attention not on their own terms. Fours process their interactions through their feelings. However, being in the withdrawn stance, they are likely to retreat and process something on their own rather than cause a scene. They may, however, play hard to get, but this is more a test of loyalty to them.
Myth: You have to be creative or artistic to be a Four. Fact: There are many surface characteristics that get assigned to Fours, such as brooding artist types—but you can be any type and be a brilliant musician or a free spirit. The important thing to look at is the motivation. Fours are motivated by being special and unique, believing they are tragically flawed, and most overcompensate so that they are seen and loved. If you’re deciding if you’re a Four, absorb what the motivation and core fear mean to you compared to the other types.
Myth: They’re cold and unemotional. Fact: Fives detach from their emotions leading them to sometimes come off rigid, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel. Detaching helps them conserve their energy so they’re better prepared to handle their emotions once they’ve processed a situation. Those with strong access to their Four wing are more keen on exploring and sharing their emotions.
Myth: They’re anti-social. Fact: Perhaps the biggest myth of a Five is that they dislike being around people. They fear being drained and take comfort in retreating into their minds, so it’s true that they need more alone time than most. However, alone time isn’t anything against anyone—it’s to help them recharge their batteries so they can show up and engage fully with the people they love most.
Myth: They’re ungenerous. Fact: Fives want to feel capable and competent which means they hoard their time, resources, and energy. Because they operate with anxiety that these things will be depleted, they set up strong boundaries so they can evaluate what is worth their time and energy. Once they have clarity and are in a healthy state, they are more likely to see the value in connection and giving freely.
Myth: If you have anxiety, you’re probably a Type Six. Fact: Anxiety is a core pattern of a Type Six, as they seek security, certainty, and support. Being in the fear triad, Sixes are hyper-aware of their own fears and doubts which can lead them to be overly-cautious. However, anxiety is not exclusive to being a Six—any type can experience it, and if you’re figuring out whether or not you’re a Six, look at the motivation behind your anxiety. Is it rooted in maintaining security and fighting a fear of being without support and guidance? Furthermore, some Sixes are counterphobic, meaning they run into the face of danger and uncertainty as a denial mechanism to cope with the anxiety they experience. This will often lead these Sixes to mistype.
Myth: They don’t trust anyone. Fact: Sixes are constantly scanning their environment for potential danger and threats and they form alliances as a way to feel safe. While some may be more doubting of others at first, once their loyalty is proven, they are very open and trusting of people. Sixes want to form strong bonds as it helps them feel more prepared and supported, believing life is a team effort.
Myth: They’re always doomsday prepping. Fact: Sixes are known for their worst-case scenario mode thinking, which is a manifestation of their fear of being unprepared for what could happen. They like to think through every future scenario so they can be ready just in case. Depending on their priorities, some may be more inclined to fit the stereotypical prepping for the end of the world. But for others, it looks much more subtle such as saving money and depriving themselves from experiences or overworking themselves so they don’t fall behind.
Myth: They lack depth and focus. Fact: Because Sevens crave stimulation and exciting new ideas or experiences, they can live in a space of always wanting more. This sometimes leads to over-commitment as a way to feel satisfied and avoid feeling any “negative” emotions, but they may quickly lose interest or patience if they’re not grounded. Self-actualized Sevens are able to be present and confront their pain and sadness to fuel their understanding of what it is they want.
Myth: They’re flighty and incapable of committing to anything. Fact: Sevens want to avoid feeling trapped by keeping their possibilities open. When limitations are placed on them, they feel stressed and may resort to escapism by conjuring up new ideas or fantasies. However, when Sevens realize what is meaningful to them by cultivating presence, they are loyal, committed, and even self-sacrificial (especially social Sevens who act against the passion of gluttony). Having a close-knit community is often essential to their happiness.
Myth: They’re always extroverted, life-of-the-party types. Fact: Sevens are known for their joyful presence, which often gets associated with extraversion. What’s important to note here is that Sevens seek stimulation—for some, that’s being around lots of people, for others, it’s keeping their curious mind engaged in new discoveries or passions. Extraversion should never be judged alone as indicative of your type. While it may be true that most Sevens are gregarious and extraverted, some are introverted and their joyous nature comes out just within their close circle.
Myth: They’re controlling and always need to be in charge. Fact: Eights can get a bad rap for being the “bullies” of the Enneagram, known for wanting to do things their way. In reality, they’re not trying to control you, they just don’t want to be controlled by you. While their assertive nature makes them great leaders, they are perfectly fine being led so long as they trust who’s in charge.
Myth: They’re always angry and aggressive. Fact: While Eights are direct and can readily access their anger, they are not walking around trying to start a fight. They carry a strong energy and assert themselves as a way to feel in control of their environment, however, that’s only one facet to their personality in a much broader spectrum. Some Eights have strong access to Two and are generous, warm-hearted, and have a deep desire for nurturing others.
Myth: Their feelings don’t get hurt. Fact: Known for having a tough exterior, many Eights put up strong walls when it comes to their emotional world which gives off the misconception that they don’t access their emotional world. In fact, quite the opposite is true. They are just more protective of their emotions and who they reveal them to because they have a deep fear of betrayal or getting hurt by others.
Myth: They’re slow, lazy, and procrastinate. Fact: Nines numb out to avoid pain and maintain their sense of peace. For some, it can be through mindless activities, while others work tirelessly or keep busy with a number of projects. The “slowness” of a nine refers to their inner world, as they are slow to discover their identity apart from others. Average Nines become self-forgetting as a result, finding ways to distract themselves since it’s difficult to pinpoint who they are and what they want.
Myth: They don’t have an opinion. Fact: Since Nines merge with others to maintain connection, they may be slower to form their own opinions—but that doesn’t mean they lack one. Not only do they wish to see all sides of a situation, but they are careful when and where they speak up so not to disrupt harmony. If they don’t see something as worth their time or energy, they will likely keep their opinion to themselves or perhaps indirectly express it and hope others pick up on it.
Myth: They never get angry. Fact: Many Nines don’t resonate with anger because it's buried deep within their consciousness as a way to keep internal peace. As lower to average Nines lack a clear identity, they’ll look to others for how to think or feel in order to stay connected. Those that are more awake to who they are, and those with a stronger access to their Eight wing, tend to be more stubborn to “go with the flow” and anger may bottle up until they’re forced to speak their mind.