What is the Enneagram? A Beginners Overview.


So what is the Enneagram?!

The Enneagram is a tool used to help you understand WHY you think and behave the way you do. It’s almost like getting insight into the default or habitual way you end up dealing with life. It can help you understand your core needs and fears and allow you to see a path forward into personal growth. (Or as most books say, it’s an ancient tool used to identify different personality types.)

It seems in the past year the Enneagram is becoming more ‘trendy,’ but make no mistake it's depth goes far beyond a personality test ‘trend.’

I’m going to break this post down into several parts:

  1. Where did the Enneagram come from?

  2. What are the numbers and what do they mean?

  3. How do you know what number you are?

  4. How do you learn more about it?

1. Where did the Enneagram come from?

The Enneagram has been around since the times of the Christian desert fathers and mothers who used it in the 4th century for spiritual direction/counseling. It also has been said to appear in other religions, mainly Sufism and Judaism. It’s been around for a long time! How did it gain popularity? In the 1970’s it seemed to resurface and was brought to the States from Chile. In the beginning, it was mainly kept for priests and spiritual directors to use as a part of spiritual direction and formation.

2. What are the Enneagram numbers and what do they mean?

Within the Enneagram, there are nine numbers representing different types of personalities. Each of the nine types has subtypes, wings, and changes based on if you are healthy/average/unhealthy. (This is a simple overview of a complex topic!)

This image from Beth McCord shows well what is associated with each number:


One thing to be careful of, don’t assume that because you think someone is a Perfectionist that they are a 1. It’s getting to the core of why they do what they do that will actually help you see what number they are. This is why it’s not good practice to label others with an Enneagram number. Let the person do the work and tell you what they think they are, after all we don’t always know what is motivating behaviors.

It is interesting how different experts have different words associated with the numbers. Above you can see Beth McCords image, and here is what Susanne Stabile uses to describe the nine types. 1. The Perfectionist. 2. The Givers. 3. The Performers. 4. The Romantics. 5. The Observers. 6. The Questioners. 7. The Epicures. 8. The Bosses. 9. The Mediators.

And if you want a few more, here is what Ian Cron uses to describe the nine types: 1. The Perfectionist, 2. The Helper. 3. The Performer. 4. The Romantic. 5. The Investigator. 6. The Loyalist. 7. The Enthusiast. 8. The Challenger. 9. The Peacemaker.

3. How do you know what number you are?

I want to start by saying you are not a number! You can identify with a number, but you are more than that. I also think that to know your number is just the tip of the iceberg of what the Enneagram has to offer. Knowing your number is just a place to start, not the end goal. I think the Enneagram is one of the most powerful tools for inner transformation I’ve worked with. (If you are looking for a more ‘practical’ tool I’d recommend Strengths Finder which my husband and I have been using for over 10 years.)

Most Enneagram experts would say that you need to read the full descriptions of each number and take some time to feel out which one you resonate with most. Often, looking at the core fear of each number can give you a quick clue to how much you may connect with that number. You can also take online tests, which I think can give you a great place to start, but some say they are not fully accurate.

What if you can’t figure out what number you are? While for me it was very obvious I was an Enneagram 6, I know for many people it can be hard to decipher between 2 or 3 of the numbers. Or if you have a strong wing, it can also be hard to know which number you are. (I’ll write a post about Enneagram wings but essentially they are the numbers next to your primary number that also influence your personality. You may hear someone say I am a 7w6; this means they are a 7 who feels they identify more with the 6 wing than the 8.)

The Enneagram Institute has a test you can take for $12. The thing I like about this test is that it gives you a percentage of how you score for each number. So if you are struggling between a couple of numbers, it can help give you a direction of which 2 to start exploring more. This is the test that many Enneagram Coaches will provide you with a code for and is often included in their coaching packages so ask them before you purchase a code on your own.

4. How do you learn more about it?

There are two Enneagram podcasts I listen to regularly. The first is Typology with Ian Morgan Cron and the second is The Enneagram Journey with Suzanne Stabile.

I’ve read about 5 Enneagram books* and I think the best place to start would be by reading The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey To Self-Discovery. It’s an excellent overview and not too complicated. The first time I was introduced to the Enneagram, it went in one ear and out the other because it just felt like too much information. This book is not like that!

If you are already familiar with the Enneagram, I would say the book that rocked me the most as far as feeling like it was describing myself and my husband in eerily accurate ways is The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge. It’s fascinating! Richard Rohr also wrote a book on the Enneagram if you are a fan of his work. It’s called The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.

Classes and coaches. The Enneagram Institute that I linked above offers courses and live training. Susan Stabile has a workbook to go along with her book The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey To Healthy Relationships. She also has a 12-week video course that has 60-minute lessons and a workbook. I’m using this with our mom’s group at church, and so far it’s been great, I’ll report back when we’ve finished it what my review of it is. I do like to use the Enneagram in conjunction with Life Coaching for my clients.

Beth, from Your Enneagram Coach, does 1:1 and group coaching. I went through a five week class with her and five other 6’s as we explored our type. She also has a course to train up Enneagram Coaches. (Her program is one of many on my list of programs I want to do to enhance my own coaching skills and offerings!) You can also do a google search and find other Enneagram Coach trainings, some are certified for the ICF.

I’d love to hear from you! If you are new to the Enneagram which number are you most curious about knowing more about or do you identify with most so far? And if you aren’t new to it, what is one thing you have learned from it that you would share with those who are just learning about it? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a great day my friends!


*Books are affiliate links through Amazon.