If you’re an Enneagram Nine like me, you know that the terms “unfamiliar” or “conflict” or even “effort” have negative connotations. As Nines, we like to be comfortable, and stability is one of our biggest strengths.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work in our favor. When we push uncomfortable things aside, we may rob ourselves of opportunities that could be good for us, simply because we don’t feel ready enough to face them. While there’s no shame in not being ready to face something, there are times when it’s better for us to break out of our comfort zone, even if it feels unsettling.
Which brings me to my main point – for Nines to grow, we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Here are three strategies to help you do just that.
1. Make conscious contact with your anger
Enneagram Nines are part of the Body center of intelligence, alongside Eights and Ones. However, while Eights overdo anger and Ones repress it, Nines tend to avoid their anger, which hinders their self-growth.
To Nines, anger is scary. We know that if we express it, it will lead to what we fear the most: separation from others. Nines often “merge” with others, meaning they’ll forget their own desires in order to form connections with people, which are of absolute importance. That’s the main reason why type Nines remain easy-going and unflappable as a coping strategy – so they avoid anger to appear likable to others, and therefore connected to them. The result is that you end up being too comfortable in your zen-like presence and do not face things you need to face.
When your behavior centers around these thoughts, anger is an uncomfortable emotion. But at the same time, anger can tell Nines a lot about themselves – specifically, what they’ve been avoiding and missing in their experience. Expressing anger allows the Nine to see what they don’t like about their current situation and, more importantly, understand that they can (and should) do something to change it.
Simply: anger moves Nines to positive action. To get comfortable with this intense emotion, Nines can start vocalizing what’s bothering them instead of distracting themselves from it. This will give Nines the self-confidence to meet their own needs for a change.
2. Act from your own self interest
When Nines put their own wants on the back burner in favor of others’ wants, they stop acting in their own self-interest. This may sound altruistic, but what it really does is rob the Nine of their own agency. They may end up passive-aggressive and feeling frustrated when their own needs go unmet.
So, think about what YOU want. Not what your partner wants; not what your friends or family want. For Nines, it’s often extremely difficult to get a grasp on this. When someone asks a Nine what they want, they’ll usually say something along the lines of “I don’t know, what do you want?” We may say this because it’s true – we frequently know more about what we don’t want than what we do want. It’s also a knee-jerk response to help us avoid conflict with others.
To move out of this passivity, you will need to prioritize yourself. Knowing what you want from a situation will help you take a stand on something, and help you express more of who you are and what you desire. Though it may feel uncomfortable at first, the more you do it, even in small ways, the more habitual it becomes and the more comfortable you are with going after what you want instead of giving up on it.
3. Learn that conflict can be good for you
Conflict is not a fun activity, especially for Nines. It has the potential to harm relationships, so why participate in it? Yet, as hard as it is, conflict is a natural and sometimes necessary part of life. It feels so scary for the Nine to work on this because avoiding conflict is so central to their type.
Something I’ve started doing that has helped tremendously is to start speaking up about very small things – things that many wouldn’t consider conflict but still involve speaking up on your own behalf. As Nines, we don’t want to be a bother to others, so it can be hard to stand firm. But starting with the small things can make a huge difference, even if the result may not be what you wanted.
For example, I was at a local business the other day. I knew there was an item I wanted that wasn’t out yet, something I could have pre-ordered online. But since I liked the business, I thought I could ask if they did pre-orders and buy it in store, throwing the money their way. I spent around 10 minutes “browsing” when in actuality I was debating in my head going up to the business owner to ask if he did pre-orders. It felt like such a hard thing. Even if it’s not what people conventionally see as conflict, I felt like asking would be a bother and that I would feel bad if the answer was no.
I had so much trouble speaking up! But eventually I did it and, while the answer was no, I felt good because I had done something that felt uncomfortable. It makes me feel ready for handling similar situations in the future.
Nines are some of the most easy-going people you’ll ever meet. They don’t want to be a bother and would rather do what makes other people happy rather than express their own wants and desires. They’re great listeners, solid friends, and a joy to be around. However, these very traits are harmful to the Nine in ways many do not see. It deprives them from living life for themselves and expressing what they want.
It can feel very scary for Nines to step out of their comfort zone but, when they do, even in small ways, it can help them grow tremendously. With this growth, they become self assured individuals with a great capacity for endurance. They’re able to navigate through life with all its difficulties and obstacles without giving up on what they truly want and need.