When I first started dipping my toes into the Enneagram, one of the first numbers I miss-typed myself as was a Four. Fours are famous for always feeling misunderstood, and I can identify so heavily with that feeling. As it turns out, I’m actually a Nine. What sealed the deal on my Nineness was recognizing the core fear of people becoming angry with me, and that if that happened they would reject me. And I’ve always felt like the reason people get mad at me, more often than not, is that they just don’t understand me and where I’m coming from. If only I could make them see, then everything would be okay and they would still love me.
Naturally, this fear led to a tendency to constantly feel the need to explain myself, and often to overexplain my thinking and motivations behind my choices and actions. And it’s not only that I hoped to avoid conflict by doing so, but that I sought validation and permission. I wanted others to give their blessing as confirmation that I was doing the right thing so I could go forward in confidence that the thing I wanted wouldn’t lead to conflict.
But the thing is, as I’ve started doing the work of healing from the childhood trauma and wounding that instilled these core fear and beliefs, and untangling myself and my identity from the expectations and labels placed on me by others, I realized how little I even understand myself. This is another thing about Nines – we tend to merge with the ideas, expectations and preferences of others in order to go along to get along and not make anyone angry, which can leave us very confused and uncertain about who we actually are and what we actually want for ourselves. We also tend to fall asleep to this confusion, becoming unaware of it, and also of the anger and resentment that inevitably accompanies such confusion and self-denial.
But I’ve come to realize that it’s not fair for me to expect understanding from others when I don’t even fully understand myself.
And as I’ve been doing this work of waking up to my true self, I’ve realized a few more things that I’d like to share, because these truths don’t just apply to me.
1. No one is obligated to understand me, let alone to approve of me or like me.
There’s a well-known motivational speaker whose Kool-Aid I sipped for a while before deciding her overall message is not for me, but one thing she says that has been helpful is that what other people think of you is none of your business. Pleasing others is not my job and it’s not why I was put on this planet, and if I keep trying to please everyone and make everyone like me, or go through life avoiding conflict at all costs, I won’t have much of a life.
2. My worth and value as a person does not come from other people’s validation or approval or love.
My worth and value come from God alone, whose word tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, created in His image, on purpose FOR a purpose, and that purpose does not include being universally liked our accepted. In fact, the very fact that I follow His Son means that many, if not most, will despise and reject me because of that simple fact. I can’t possibly fullfil my purpose and my calling and be a people pleaser at the same time.
3. I don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, I have no obligation to explain my life choices or my boundaries to anyone, least of all to the ones who abused me, went out of their way to make me feel less than, and made those boundaries necessary in the first place. Jesus said to let your yes be yes and your no be no. He didn’t say to wrap them in explanations or excuses to make them more palatable to those on the receiving end. Like Oprah – who I am NOT putting on the same plane as Jesus, just to be clear – said, No is a complete sentence.
4. Other people’s anger at or rejection of me often has nothing to do with me.
People often tend to project their own tendencies, beliefs and motivations onto others, whether consciously or unconsciously. And very often, other people’s reactions are filtered through their own core beliefs and childhood wounds and the warped perceptions resulting from both of those. The only thing you or I can do about that is to offer compassion and grace, but beyond that, to let it go and accept that we’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
5. Disagreement, conflict and even someone getting upset with me do not automatically equal rejection of me as a person or mean that the relationship will be damaged beyond repair.
This is a hard one for us Nines to wrap or heads around, but I mean. My husband’s not going to leave me or decide I’m too difficult to be with if I want to eat at a different restaurant than he does. And any friend worth keeping isn’t going to dump me if I state my honest opinion about something – even politics – and it differs from theirs. People disagree all the time and even have fights and walk away still loving each other. No one who genuinely loves me is going to stop loving me over a disagreement. No one who genuinely loves YOU is going to stop loving you over a disagreement. And if that actually does happen? Refer to lesson number four.
These truths have not been easy to lay hold of, and I still struggle sometimes to do so. After all, a lifetime of conditioning and programming takes a long time to undo. But understanding them has brought me so much freedom and space to figure out who I really am and what kind of life I want for myself and my family, to discover my authentic self and the unique expression of Christ I was created to be in this world, and to live and speak and operate from that place of authenticity.
It’s still a work in progress, but each little step on the journey is a victory work celebrating. I hope you pause to celebrate each step on your own journey to wholeness. ❤️