People with Enneagram Type 6 personality profiles are hard-working, reliable, responsible and trustworthy. They are prone to impressive bursts of creative inspiration, and are also capable of great self-sacrifice in service to others or society. They are tireless in their dedication to the people, causes and beliefs that define their worlds and give them a sense of meaning and purpose.

Unfortunately, Type 6s sometimes struggle with self-confidence. These types are vulnerable to fears and doubt their own ability to handle challenges. Their tendency to imagine worst-case scenarios only magnifies their feelings of inadequacy.

Their worries and insecurities can stop them from:

  • Pursuing new friendships or romantic relationships
  • Asking for a promotion at work
  • Demanding respectful treatment from bosses or co-workers
  • Trying new and potentially thrilling activities that might carry some risk (rock climbing, skydiving, horseback riding, kayaking, etc.)
  • Putting their values into practice (volunteering for charities, signing up to work on political campaigns, organizing or joining protests, etc.) 
  • Making major changes, like going back to school or starting a new career
  • Ending a relationship that is no longer satisfying or healthy

If you can remember situations where you wanted to act, speak or change course but didn’t because you feared the consequences, a lack of self-confidence may be interfering with your life. The good news is, you can do something about this. Slowly but surely, you can improve your outlook, boost your self-image, and become a far more confident person using time-tested confidence-building strategies that have helped others who’ve walked in your shoes.

What’s going on with Type 6s?

The problem for Type 6 personalities is not low self-esteem per se. They do think of themselves as good people and know they have a lot to contribute to their families, employers and society. But sometimes self-doubt follows them around, like a shadow they can’t shake. Their expectations for themselves are high, but they often don’t feel up to the task of meeting them.

To soothe their insecurities, Type 6s with self-confidence issues will frequently associate with others who seem surer of themselves — an authority figure like a boss or a church leader. They specifically seek out people who possess the qualities they fear they lack. They are loyal to these individuals, often to a fault. 

But they never quite trust them. Type 6s never get over their fear of abandonment, which is yet another worry to add to the list. They don’t always trust their own judgment either, regardless of how much time they spend thinking things through. They worry they may have hitched their wagon to the wrong horse. They seek structure because they are uncertain of how they will cope with the fluid or unpredictable.

This is a tangled web, and it can keep you hopelessly trapped if you don’t take action to escape.

The journey to self-confidence starts with a single step

Like anyone else, Type 6s can benefit from experiences that take them out of their comfort zone. As long this doesn't happen radically or suddenly, but is deliberate, systematic and according to a plan.

For example, you may lack self-confidence at work, which leaves you afraid to share your ideas or take on new responsibilities. But if you speak up to offer helpful advice just one time, or volunteer for a new assignment in one instance, it could be the start of something meaningful and transformative.

Once you’ve done something like this for the first time, it is important to follow up your success by doing it again, and again. Gradually, you can develop new habits, being more assertive and communicative where in the past you were reticent, or were too quick to defer to seemingly more confident co-workers.

This same strategy can be applied to your relationships. If there are issues that you need to discuss, try to do it one issue at a time until you get more comfortable expressing yourself.  Your fears of rejection or criticism may be difficult to overcome at first. But over time expressing your thoughts and feelings will become natural, to the point where you no longer hesitate when you have something to say.

Expressing your needs and establishing boundaries will feel empowering rather than scary and threatening. Your fear of abandonment will slowly subside, even as your self-confidence continues to grow.

Before change, there must be self-acceptance

What has just been described is a type of self-managed exposure therapy. By exposing yourself to people, situations or experiences that cause you nervousness or trepidation, they will gradually lose their mystique, and you will no longer fear them as much as you used to. And as you confront your fears and overcome them, your self-image will improve and your self-confidence will grow, which will make you happier, healthier and more productive in the future.

However, there are a couple of caveats.

First, you must acknowledge your fears and doubts instead of trying to suppress them. Your lack of self-confidence is real and cannot be simply wished away or denied. If you try to repress it, you’ll only empower it, allowing it to lurk in the shadows and sabotage your attempts to rise above it.

The more constructive approach is to acknowledge your fears and uncertainties, without self-judgment or apology.  Accept their existence, and recognize them as powerful factors that have influenced your choices in the past and could influence them again in the future.

And once you’ve acknowledged your fear, that’s the time to get moving. Leap in head first and don’t look back. If you refuse to let your fear — and the lack of self-confidence that underlies it — stop you from doing what you want, it will gradually lose its potency.

Your potency, on the other hand, will expand exponentially. When you get into the habit of facing down your fears, you’ll begin to exude self-confidence, and just about anything you can conceive will seem possible.

The second thing you must do — or more accurately, not do — is judge yourself based on results.

This is the mistake that so many Type 6s make when attempting to build confidence or address self-esteem issues. They will push themselves to take chances or try new things but will nevertheless critique themselves constantly. If their performance doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard of acceptability, they will dismiss their efforts as a failure and end up feeling worse, which tends to discourage further self-exploration.

Constant self-judgment is self-sabotaging, and will turn efforts at confidence-building into exercises in futility. It’s absolutely the wrong approach: it is the effort to change that deserves congratulations, not the results. It is the former that requires courage and determination.

Every time you make the effort to step outside your comfort zone, or push through the fear, you should feel proud and inspired.  Good results will come in time, after you become more polished, proficient, and naturally self-confident.  Awkward performances or a lack of success in the early going are part of the learning process, and if you accept that you won’t get discouraged or be tempted to give up.

Harnessing the power of your thoughts

The quality of your inner dialogue is incredibly important. Inadvertently, Type 6s who lack self-confidence will sabotage themselves with thoughts and emotional responses that subtly reinforce their faulty assumptions.

There is no magic formula to reverse this problem. It is simply a matter of developing more advanced and enlightened self-awareness, which is often referred to as mindfulness. You must learn to pay very close attention to your reactions and reflections at all times, so you can identify self-negating patterns and recognize their true impact.

There are certain practices that can help you achieve mindfulness, including meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and biofeedback. These activities won’t directly help you build a more effective self-image. But they will help you gain the separation you need to observe yourself objectively, which can be hard when you’re caught up in the activities of daily living.

Developing that ability is essential to the next step, which is replacing your unconfident inner voice with its opposite. Your thoughts should be your ally, not your opponent. If you can turn your interior feedback loops in a more positive direction it can greatly aid your attempts to build greater self-confidence.

Telling yourself that you’re self-confident won’t make you believe it. But telling yourself that you’re not self-confident will prevent you from believing that you are, regardless of anything else you might have done to make yourself feel capable and competent.

Your thoughts should remain in harmony with your highest ambitions at all times. That is the road to personal empowerment, regardless of your personality type.  

It’s all in your mind, and so is the solution

One interesting fact about Type 6s is that their lack of self-confidence isn’t usually situational. In other words, low self-confidence can limit their choices or impact their behavior across a broad range of contexts.

This shows that your worries are generated inside your own active Type 6 mind, and are not really caused by external factors.

When you’re short on self-confidence, it simply means you haven’t spent enough time building it. Your lack of self-confidence is not an inherent personality trait, but a symptom of neglect. Try changing your patterns of thinking and behavior using the tips in this article. Then you can begin to construct a better self-image brick by brick, until you’ve built a solid edifice of self-confidence that can sustain you and help you control your worries and doubts.

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.