Cracking the Code: How One Number Changed My Life

Three. That simple number changed my life forever.

I Was Lost

For years, I struggled with achieving what I thought to be perfection. I stressed myself out studying for tests on subjects that made no sense to me, staying up late surrounded by piles of my meticulously-written notes, likely with tears in my eyes because I was afraid of missing the mark. In the end, the work paid off, I was a straight A student.. I was rewarded with a Bachelor’s degree, with honors. Though I aced my exams (except you, organic chem), I failed to really understand the way my mind worked, failed to really understand myself and because of that, I failed to be kind to myself.

In college, I thought I was going to be a dentist. I wanted to make my parents proud, to give them bragging rights that their child was a six-figure earner. I wanted to show up my bullies, so that they would regret every unkind thing that they had ever said about the “ugly girl.” I wanted to feel powerful behind my smirk when I told everyone about my career during house parties at my beach oasis in the Hamptons. I wanted to have what I thought was the perfect career choice, even at the expense of my own happiness.

Nothing Changed

After graduating college, I still relied heavily on my instincts in my day-to-day life, in the workplace, in relationships. Can I attain perfection? What is the next big thing I can achieve? I stayed up late writing out lists of my goals, pasting new images on my vision board. After I moved out on my own, however, things shifted and I truly broke down.

I felt alone, isolated, and I lacked the support system that I needed to keep me going. I dragged my feet every morning, apathetic about life, until I stumbled upon the Enneagram Assessment. The short quiz claimed it would help me better understand myself and since I was so ready to give up on everything I thought I knew, I took a chance and answered the all questions that same day, eager for the results to give me direction on my then, undefined path. The assessment listed a series of short statements, asking that the user honestly grade each as applicable to their personality and ways of thinking. In noting whether users “agreed”, “disagreed”, or felt “neutral” about the statements, they were pinpointed as one of nine personality types.

The Results Changed My Life

Type Three: The Achiever. These individuals want to be affirmed and admired to feel valuable, and fear being worthless. As children, Threes learn that when they performed well in certain activities that were valued by their parents or peers, they were praised — thus continue to put their energies into excelling in those activities. The assessment results were spot on.

(A list of famous 3’s include: Condoleezza Rice, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Tony Robbins, Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway, Ryan Seacrest, Elvis Presley, and Oprah Winfrey. Not a bad group to surround yourself with, huh?)

Photo of Jessica and Her Family
As the eldest child of first-generation immigrant parents, I was easily overlooked.

As the eldest child of first-generation immigrant parents, I was easily overlooked. With my siblings being significantly younger than me, my parents’ energies and efforts primarily resided in keeping them fed, clean, and happy. I learned that I got positive feedback from them when I earned high marks in school, when I achieved. I was never the “pretty, popular girl” in school, but I did get praise from my classmates when my project was the most artistic in the room. I thrived on how impressed teachers were with my posters and reports, beamed with pride when my peers commented on their jealousy of my academic and creative abilities. Boy, was I a true Three.

Where this threeness became dangerous was getting so wrapped up in everyone else’s expectations that I lost sight of my own hopes and dreams, my own interests and passions. Quickly, that left me defeated and incredibly depressed. There were low days that I fell back into the suicidal thoughts that taunted me at age 13, and it took every ounce of strength in my body to continue moving forward.

This ‘Threeness’ Really Made Me Think

The results of the Enneagram test provided me with the clarity I needed to step back for a moment and finally put myself first. It gave me the permission to give myself a bit of grace when I don’t hit the mark of perfection. I still often have to remind myself that I shouldn’t be so wrapped up in performance or be image-conscious, but I think that I’ve made great strides in setting up a daily routine that keeps me balanced and grounded in my surroundings. A gratitude journal reminds me of all that I have to be thankful for, and the checkmarks on my daily To Do lists assures me that I’ve successfully completed the important tasks that matter at work and at home. And my 2 dogs definitely give me all the positive attention I need to know that I’m doing something right in life. It’s not true perfection, I guess, but it’s my own little version of it.

I can’t say I was surprised by the personality type that the test pinpointed. Because the results from this simple, free assessment were accurate, I really took the time to diligently read through the detailed

The Enneagram Wheel
The Enneagram Wheel represents the 9 different personality types, and shows how they interact with one another.

results via the Enneagram Institute page. The descriptions really outlined not just the strengths of each type, but provided a level-by-level analysis of the development needed for each Enneagram type. As I read through the descriptions of each of the 9 types, various people in my life — family, friends, coworkers, neighbors — flashed through my head, and it gave me a little bit more awareness of the different lenses that these different people may see the world. Greater patience, understanding and empathy was granted to every person I encountered, and I was able to gift myself more grace for my own shortcomings and limitations thanks to the self-awareness that the assessment provided.

Today, I am no dentist. I am not a PhD student either. I don’t even own a house (of any size). I am Jessica… plain ol’ Jessica. And you know what? I’m so incredibly happy about that.

So, what’s your number? What is it that makes you tick? I encourage everyone to take a moment and retrieve your Enneagram assessment results to gain some insight about why you think the way you do and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to find your own little slice of perfection in life too.

 

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