How to Use the Enneagram for Powerful (and Shocking) Self-Discovery

I’m not always one for personality tests. Often I find them to be a little to vague or easily applicable to everyone– but then I found the Enneagram, a personality tool that identifies your basic personality type. I took the test, and it was love at first results. Like a slap to the face, the Enneagram pegged for the achieving, image-conscious, driven crazy lady I secretly identify as.

In short, I dig it and you should try it. In long, read on. 

How I Learned about the Enneagram

Recently I learned about the Enneagram by listening to Chelsea Handler’s new podcast, “Life will be the death of me.” For those of you who don’t know, Chelsea is a comedian, writer and talk show host. She’s known for her books on one night stands, sex, dating, drugs and other debauchery.

In recent years, (read: since Trump was elected), she’s gone through a bit of awakening. She started going to therapy. Learned how to cope in different ways. Became politically active, and worked on different forms of healing through weed, mediation, psychiatry, and other fun.

I’ve read Chelsea Handler’s writing since early college but grew out of it as I started getting my shit together. Now that it seems she’s also got her shit together– I was pleasantly surprised to happen upon her podcast and new book (also titled “Life Will Be the Death of Me”).

Anyway, in a recent episode, Chelsea brought her psychiatrist onto the podcast. In the episode, they went over different personality types of the Enneagram. Now, before I explain the different types of Enneagrams, my type, and how the Enneagram system helps me to better understand and accept myself, shortcomings included, let’s explain what an Enneagram is, shall we? 

What is the Enneagram

According to Enneagram Worldwide, the Enneagram is a tool “for personal and collective transformation.”

The Enneagram symbol has nine points labeled with a number (1-9). Each number represents a type of personality that thinks, feels, and acts in a distinct way, guided by a deeper motivation or world view. 

Enneagram Image from The Chestnut Group: The Enneagram

These types define different ways we handle the gaping hole of life and not knowing that is in front of us, and what’s interesting is… we all deal with this majestic and confusing gift in completely diverse ways. 

Now, before you mathematicians get hard over the value of numbers and which one is better or worse than the other–The reason the Enneagram uses numbers is because numbers hold no moral value, similar to how Myer Briggs uses letters. 

The numbers are meant to emphasize that no type is better or worse. They are all neutral which is why the original creators of the Enneagram used numbers.

Since then, the Enneagram exploded, and people add titles to each number (the achiever, the enchanter, the peacemaker, etc like the image below). But keep in mind that the numbers are just the types and not meant to be labeled.

Enneagram: An Inside Job

One of the things I like about the Enneagram is it’s an inside job more than anything else. It’s how you think internally, not necessarily how you project to the world, or how you change your natural state in order to fit in or get along with people. It’s the things we feel and think on the inside even if we don’t come across to the rest of the world in the same way. 

I DEFINITELY relate to this. I often feel like I’m a different person depending on who I’m surrounded by. So finding a test that focuses less on what I do in different situations and more on what I think in different situations? Sign me up.

Our Inside Worlds Don’t Change

The reason I love taking a test that analyzes my internal world rather than what I do, is because my thoughts don’t change all that much even if the way I act does.

I still think the same way I thought when I was a kid. The voice inside my head is still the same. The only thing that has changed is my circumstances, context, knowledge and some different coping mechanisms.

But I’m essentially still the same person on the inside as I was when I was seven.

What’s also cool about this internal world analyzing is it’s really hard to guess what someone else’s type because we don’t know what actually goes on in the brains of even our closest friends. I’ve made my friends, people I meet at the airport, and co-workers all do the Enneagram. And for every single person except for one (my boss), I was COMPLETELY wrong about what I thought their type would be. 

Pretty cool, huh?

It just goes to show how different our internal and external facing worlds are. We change our external world to better adapt and be accepted, but how we think and feel on the inside never really changes.

And that’s what the Enneagram shows us.

The Enneagram is the inner workings of ourselves. It’s where we focus our attention, how we form our core beliefs, how we cope, what strengths and struggles we have, and how we can pursue personal development. 

Using the Enneagram: What's your personality type?

How the Enneagram Compares to Other Personality Tests

Now, confession time. I have mixed feelings about most personality tests. While I love doing them because of my little sliver of narcissism (can you be a blogger without a little slice of narcissism?), I also find them to be a little limiting.

On most tests, my answers are inconclusive because I answer so in the middle/neutral zone for most questions. I’ve taken tests that say “well, you may be this but you could also be this but you might be this but WE DON’T KNOW CAUSE YOU’RE SO GODDAMN WISH WASHY WITH YOUR ANSWERS, BITCH!” 

Sorry. But I’m neutral on a lot of things and what I would do in any given situation is different depending on the context. So most personality tests are just kind of “meh” in my experience.

I don’t feel that way with the Enneagram.

Because how I am on the inside, and what motivates me, and what scares me, and what makes me feel worthwhile– it’s always the same. And that’s what the Enneagram measures and labels.

The Enneagram helps us realize our own limitations and recognize opportunities for growth. It’s a tool for personal growth and awareness so we can stretch beyond our basic personality while also leveraging our strengths to maximize on our potential.

It’s a path and guide to becoming a better person. To me, that’s not put-in-box-ing like so many other personality tests. It’s more take-me-out-of-the-box-and-let-me-fly-ing. It’s a path to personal growth.

A Focus on Self-Awareness and Growth

The focus on self-awareness in order to overcome, grow and develop is 100% my jam. And the Enneagram is all about it.

If you go to Enneagram Institute’s website, for each type, it list different levels of development from unhealthy to average to healthy for each type. It helps explain why we aren’t all the traits of our type all the time, and it also shows what healthy coping mechanisms look like for each type.

It’s not shocking that a self-actualized Three looks completely different than an unhealthy and in denial Three. But I find it helpful to look at and consider where I’m at on the scale.

We cope by trying to become what we believe a valuable, successful, worthy person is. We learn to perform well, be acceptable, or more often outstanding, and we drive ourselves relentlessly in the pursuit of success as a way to stave off feelings of shame or our fear of failure. 

Clo Bare

That’s kind of what I like about it. It’s accepting myself for who I am and figuring out how to be the healthiest (read: healthy mind) version of myself I can be without trying to change or suppress who I am to the core.

Got it? Get it? Kind of cool, yeah? 

It gets more complicated than that, with subtypes and home bases and instincts and other whatnots. But I’m not an expert in these so I’ll leave a few links for you to read on if you’re interested in learning more. But, there are a few more things I want to mention before I dive into my type. 

Woman looking at blue light thinking about using the enneagram for personal growth.

Quick Facts to Know About the Enneagram

  1. There are nine types and each type has a “wing” type which is the secondary characteristics of your personality. After taking the test you’ll see two numbers usually, for example, I am a 3w2. Three is my dominant personality, and two is my wing/secondary personality. The wing compliments and contradicts your primary personality. In this post, I’m mostly focusing on my primary personality. Also, you might not have a wing and you may have two wings. You can ONLY wing to one of the numbers adjacent to you on the Enneagram. So as a 3, I can’t wing 5 or 9, I can only wing 2 or 4.
  2. Genetics and your childhood play a role in your type.
  3. You may see yourself in all types, and that’s good. The goal is to foster the good things from all the different types. 
  4. We are born with a dominant type.
  5. People do not change from one basic type to another. 
  6. Not everything applies to you all the time because we fluctuate between healthy, unhealthy, and average traits. There is a nice scale on each type on the Enneagram Institute website that shows each types healthy adaptations versus unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  7. No type is better or worse than any other, and each type has both positive and negative characteristics. 
Woman laughing in the light of blue neon light thinking about enneagram type 3 identity mantra: I am more than what I do.

The Enneagram Types & Clo Bare’s Type

As I mentioned, there are nine different types each with different strategies for handling the world. Per the Enneagram Institute, the different types are:

Type 1: The Perfectionist/Reformer

This type is rational and idealistic. Traits include principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic. 

Type 2: The Helper

This type is caring and interpersonal. Traits include demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing and possessive. 

Type 3: The Achiever

This type is success-oriented and pragmatic. Traits include adaptive, excelling, driven and image-conscious.

Type 4: The Individualist/Romantic

This type is sensitive and withdrawn. Traits include expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed and temperamental.

Type 5: The Investigator

This type is intense and cerebral. Traits include perceptive, innovative, secretive and isolated.

Type 6: The Loyalist

This type is committed and security-oriented. Traits include engaging, responsible, anxious and suspicious. 

Type 7: The Enthusiast

This type is busy and fun-loving. Traits include spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered. 

Type 8: The Challenger 

This type is powerful and dominating. Traits include self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational. 

Type 9: The Peacemaker

This type is easygoing and self-effacing. Traits include receptive, reassuring, agreeable and complacent. 

That’s it for the basic types! Now let’s talk about my type, what it means to me, and how it’s helping me out in my day to day life.

woman looking at neon blue light thinking enneagram type 3 fear mantra: I am not worthless.

Clo Bare’s Type

I am a Three, an achiever or also known as a performer. I am adaptable, excelling, driven and a little too image-conscious. To get a little more specific, I am a Type 3w2, also known as the Enchanter.

3w2’s are charming, ambitious, and enthusiastic while also being driven with a love to achieve. We adapt quickly to any environment in order to be seen as adequate or successful to whatever group we’re trying to impress (gag, I know). 

In the podcast, Chelsea Handler’s psychiatrist states Type 3’s are the type of personality that will enter a party and wonder what other people will think of them. Their immediate first thought is about how they can be impressive and likable to those people.

I am so hard on the Type 3 that when I first heard about Type 3’s I HATED the description. I loathed it because I saw the worst things about myself in those descriptions:

Some Wake Up Calls from the Enneagram

I don’t love this description of me. But I can’t deny there’s a lot of truth there. The negative characteristics coinciding with a Three make me feel a lot of shame.

And guess what? It’s normal for Threes to feel shame when off balance. Instead of feeling anger or fear (the two other feeling centers of the Enneagram– Three’s feel shame dominating Three’s center making us react to the world in the way that we do. 

As you may know by reading my pieces of overwhelm, anxiety, and exhaustion— I have a tendency to get a little off balance quite a bit. Cause achiever. I am always on a machine-like path to achieve, and when I crash and burn, I go to the opposite extreme.

Because even when I fail, I fail the crap out of failing. 

Different Enneagram types feel different emotions when they move away from their centers. Some feel rage, some feel shame, and my type and my wing’s type (2)– we have a tendency to feel shame over rage. The way my type handles this shame is by trying to avoid it and deny it. 

Type Threes are often out of touch with their feelings and are most out of touch with their feelings of inadequacy. Instead of dealing with this shame and other deep seeded feelings of being inadequate, what do Three’s do?

We cope by trying to become what we believe a valuable, successful, worthy person is. Threes learn to perform well, be acceptable, or more often outstanding, and we drive ourselves relentlessly in the pursuit of success as a way to stave off feelings of shame or our fear of failure. 

Good God. If that’s not the most accurate description of my inner world, I don’t know what is.

The Good of My Enneagram Type

On the flip side of the not-so-lovely characteristic, there are things about my type that I love.

I am a do-er. And I like that about myself. I do whatever it takes to achieve and get the job done– and I think that’s pretty cool. 

Sure– can it be unhealthy? Absolutely. 

Sometimes it takes me out of the present moment and makes it hard to enjoy the now, but overall, I love that I am an achiever and I love that I’m a do-er who can be relied on to get shit done and usually get it one well if not exceptionally well. 

I like that I achieve what I set out to do, and I like that I can get more things done than the average person. I think it’s badass, and I love it when people comment on how much shit I’m able to get done. In truth, I’d never want to change that about myself. But I would like to manage some of the traits I recognized in my Type.

woman looking at blue neon light and thinking about how to use the enneagram for personal growth

Revelations from the Enneagram

Through reading more and more about my Type, I’ve come more to terms with some things I kind of already knew about myself. I saw myself in the descriptions of what Type Three’s fear and how we cope with this fear in relationships and identity. Recognizing these things and coming to terms with them helps me to build a go to set of mantras I’ve already started incorporating into my thought patterns.


Type 3 wing 2’s basic fear is the fear of failure or of being unworthy of love. In order to avoid this, we set and accomplish goals in order to feel successful and worthy.

This rings true to my core, and if you’ve read Clo Bare, you’re likely not surprised by this basic fear.

In many of my dating posts, I talk about the little girl part of me that feels like I’m not worthy of love. She’s been around for as long as I can remember. I remember feeling like I had to earn love as a kid and I know that followed me in every relationship I’ve ever been in. I’m still working on overcoming this tendency and the thought process today. 

Recognizing this fear puts me a little bit at peace. I feel this way because this is the type of person I am, but the best thing about feelings? I don’t have to own them.

My Fear Mantra: “I am not worthless.

Woman laughing in neon light. Enneagram type 3 love mantra: I deserve to be loved for who I am, not what I do.


I recognize that this fear follows me into relationships.

Every relationship I’ve been in, I’ve had a tendency to lose myself because I end up doing so much for the other person while neglecting myself. I do everything I can imagine to make someone feel loved and understood, appreciated and special, etc. It’s compulsive and involuntary, and I think that’s where my Two side comes out to compliment my Three type.

As an Achiever, I want to be the best. And as a Two wing, I want to serve other people. Combining the two types in a relationship– I want to be the best girlfriend/partner/friend and that means letting go of my own needs.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing– wanting to make someone feel loved. But sometimes it’s so compulsive it feels out of my control. The lack of control makes me feel as if the person is only with me because I am doing all those things– not because they actually love me or want me.

So I start to feel resentful. And unappreciated. Even if my partner never asked me to do so much to begin with. After all, I don’t want to do nice things for people because I’m afraid they won’t love me if I don’t. I want to do nice things for people because I want to do nice things for people. Sometimes it’s hard for me to recognize the difference.

Enneagram featuring different personality types, centers, and titles
How Enneagram helped me understand myself

The Exceptions

The only times I’ve been in a relationship where I didn’t feel the constant urge to do in order to gain love was in relationships with people I never felt I had to work for in order for them to love me. 

Looking back, what’s interesting about both of those relationships where the compulsion to do wasn’t strong– I felt indifferent to the person I was with. As if them loving me for who I was and not for what I did confused the self-conscious parts of me and made me think there was something wrong with them.

Because how could they love me when I wasn’t achieving anything? How could it be love if I wasn’t working hard at it?

Is that the Achiever part of me? Is that because I didn’t have to work hard for them so therefore I wasn’t winning anything?

Perhaps. It makes sense as I look at the patterns of my relationships and when I feel most valued. It’s an interesting dichotomy– not being able to love those I don’t have to work hard to be with while also feeling unappreciated and resentful of the ones I do.

I think the impossible dichotomy exists because I still have more work to do on loving myself outside of achieving.

My Love Mantra: “I deserve to be loved for who I am, and not what I do.” 

Fear & My Relationship with Myself

That fear trickles into my relationship with myself.

I “do” compulsively because I don’t feel like I’m enough by simply existing. I do to make up for any holes in my self. Working and doing and acting and serving– this is how I earn love because I’m afraid I’m not lovable as I am.

It’s not a conscious connection for me, but I act on this deeply rooted belief every day.

I do believe I deserve to be loved for who I am.

But I don’t know who I am if I’m not achieving. 

So who is there to love when my achievements get stripped away?

Do I know what I love about myself aside from my achieving? 

Identity Mantra: I am more than what I do.

Using the Enneagram as a Tool for Personal Development; Clo Bare,

How the Enneagram Makes Me Question My Identity

Three’s often confuse their identity with what they do instead of who they are. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one.

Who am I beyond what I do and what I achieve?

I’ve been thinking about that question a lot and I’ve uncovered a few ideas on who I think that is– the parts, lovable or not, of me existing beyond my achievements and drive to succeed.

I am loyal. I’m a good friend and I love deep and wide and unabashed. I am open and honest and vulnerable, and I’m a goddamn try-hard through and through. There’s a constant aching need for connection in my soul but I often cover that up with things to do and distract with. I value doing over thinking and I value action over planning. Too often I’m stubborn and an over-thinker and overly empathetic. I’ll go above and beyond to make sure I understand someone and I’ll be sure I’m understood even if I over communicate. I love time alone but I love spending time with people who have an incredible power to shut my brain off and be in the moment even more. 

Those things are lovable even if they aren’t achievements. But the Enneagram made me realize I have work to do on recognizing and fostering that part of me. With a growing love for myself beyond my achievements, I think I’ll be able to stop feeling as if in order to gain love I must do-do-do all the damn time.

Paths for Growth

On the Enneagram Institute, at the bottom of each type description, there is a section for personal growth.

For my type, the below is listed:

For our real development, it is essential to be truthful. Be honest with yourself and others about your genuine feelings and needs. Likewise, resist the temptation to impress others or inflate your importance. You will impress people more deeply by being authentic than by bragging about your successes or exaggerating your accomplishments.

Develop charity and cooperation in your relationships. You can do this by taking time to pause in a busy day to really connect with someone you care about. Nothing spectacular is required—simply a few moments of quiet appreciation. When you do so, you will become a more loving person, a more faithful friend—and a much more desirable individual. You will feel better about yourself.

Take breaks. You can drive yourself and others to exhaustion with your relentless pursuit of your goals. Ambition and self-development are good qualities, but temper them with rest periods in which you reconnect more deeply with yourself. Sometimes taking three to five deep breaths is enough to recharge your battery and improve your outlook.

Develop your social awareness. Many Threes have grown tremendously by getting involved in projects that had nothing to do with their own personal advancement. Working cooperatively with others toward goals that transcend personal interest is a powerful way of finding your true value and identity.

In their desire to be accepted by others, some average Threes adapt so much to the expectations of others that they lose touch with what they are really feeling about the situation. Develop yourself by resisting doing what is acceptable just to be accepted. It is imperative that you invest time in discovering your own core values.

Enneagram Institute

These. These paths and ideas for personal growth. They are exactly what I friggin’ need. And reading it? It’s someone is reaching down and giving me permission to take breaks and stop saying “yes” to fucking everything.

Why The Enneagram Is So Helpful

Reading about the Enneagram and my personal growth and my Type is HELPFUL.

There’s something comforting about finding myself within a type. It’s comforting to be recognized on page, and relinquish the shame and guilt I feel for being the way I am.

It’s okay that I’m this way. This is my baseline.

What’s important is that I use this information to be more self-aware and overcome my shortcomings while capitalizing on the strengths that make me me. 

Woman looking at blue light thinking about how the enneagram compares to other personality tests.

How to use the Enneagram for Self-Discovery and Growth

Now, what about you, right? How does any of this help you and your path with the Enneagram?

Here’s how I recommend using the Enneagram:

  1. Take the test (duh).
  2. Read through your type, and take notice of the things that piss you off or make you want to automatically say “NOPE, THAT’S NOT ME.” Because chances are, the things that piss you off are the things you might not like about yourself and know you already want to change.
  3. Think about how those attributes of your type may be impacting various areas of your life. Can you see a connection? Do the deeper motivations of your type resonate with why you do some of the things you do in life? Try not to brush off what feels uncomfortable– instead lean in and question why it feels uncomfortable in the first place. If there were truth in the Enneagram type you landed on, where would it be?
  4. Check out the Enneagram Institute’s lists of opportunities for personal growth for your type. They are at the bottom of each type’s page. You can use it as a guide to gain an understanding on what you might need to work on.
  5. Pick ONE thing to start working on. For me, it was creating those mantras for different aspects of my life that come up. I KNOW I have the tendency to perform rather than be authentic in certain situations (like when performing desirability on a date or performing the caregiver role in a relationship) and mantras/reminders like “I am lovable as I am”, “I do not need to achieve in order to deserve love/peace/etc.” It’s helpful to remind myself of these things, and being aware of my tendencies is half the battle.

That’s it! At least that’s been it for me so far. But these little adjustments are helping me to be more aware of what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and when I need to adjust.

Your Turn and Enneagram Resources

Have you taken the Enneagram test? What did you think about the results and how did it help you grow?

For test taking, there are a few resources online, but the one I took was free at Eclectic Energies. There’s a lot of information online about the Enneagram. I’m far from an expert, but here are some resources from people who are Enneagram Experts!

Join the conversation! I’m obsessed with the Enneagram, so share your type below to keep the convo going!

8 thoughts on “How to Use the Enneagram for Powerful (and Shocking) Self-Discovery”

  1. Your post had me questioning if my boyfriend might be a 3w2 instead of a 2w3; I’ll have to talk to him in-depth a little more about the enneagram and his inner world. It’s hard to tell if he’s performing the 2 characteristics or if those are the real him– he probably doesn’t even know.

    As for me, I’m a 4. In true 4 fashion, I cried when I found out about the enneagram haha. The enneagram has helped me acknowledge some negative traits about myself, and has also helped me (at least somewhat) come to terms with feelings of shame/brokenness. It’s also given me a sense of belonging; there are some small traits I have that I share with a lot of other 4s online and that has honestly blown my mind!

    1. Oooo so interesting! Yeah, 3’s definitely get confused for 2’s and vice versa sometimes. So interesting to think about. I used to feel guilty about some of this stuff but the enneagram kind of helps me to accept it and be like… yes that’s who I am, that’s not bad, I just have to monitor and adjust sometimes. So cool though that you had a similar experience. Totally mind blowing– agreed!!

  2. I never knew before that there are such things as subtypes when analyzing enneagrams. I might consider hiring enneagram coaching services soon because I’ve been losing some motivation in trying to find a new career lately. Maybe it would be best to have someone help me assess myself better in order to be on the right track.

  3. Here it is…2021 and I just came across your blog and this post. I literally thought you were my twin…pulling the words right out of my mouth!

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