The Enneagram Personality System is a wonderful tool for understanding your unique drive, values, and basic fears. There are 9 types, but there are many variations within them. You can read more about all types here. I am a Type 8, the Leader or Challenger. I am sharing some of my core strengths and the tendencies I’ve struggled with because:
- I hope that it will help you to understand the 8s in your life better.
- Since the goal is to eventually be in touch will all 9 aspects of ourselves, this may help you embrace your inner Leader and heal the parts of it in shadow.
- To invite you to be open with your loved ones about your own struggles and strengths, and ask for their support in being your truest self.
My intention is not to speak for all 8s, as everyone has their own experience. But I have noticed most of these patterns in 8s I have known.
1. I have a lot of opinions, and they’re almost always right!
I usually think my partner should be driving slower, or faster, than he is. And it’s been pretty hard for me in the past not to share my opinion…loudly and repeatedly. There is a part of me that thinks if I’m not controlling the things around me, something bad might happen. It would be exhausting if I gave into that voice all of the time, so I deliberately focus on relaxing and trusting in Life. Then I can express my opinions in a healthy way, that helps make a project successful or champions the interests of a group that isn’t being heard.
2. After I’ve had a productive day, I am on a natural high.
I feel useful, creative, and powerful. This is especially true if I have faced a challenge, accomplished something great with a team, or given an important presentation. I thrive in a busy, meeting-packed day where I get to engage with people and do, do, do. When I am not challenged, I get bored and unproductive.
3. I sometimes make things harder than they are.
I just went to a conference in a rental van. I kept struggling to slide the back door open–really using all my arm strength. It took me several times before I realized it was an automatic door, so all I had to do was get it started with a flick of the wrist and it would roll open. Once I discovered that, I felt a bit impatient about the slowness of the door’s roll. I’ve got places to go!
4. I care very deeply for people.
When I love someone, and I know they love me, I am generous with my time and resources. I constantly tell my partner how much I love him, and I don’t mind being sappy. When one of my best friends moved to another part of the state last year, I wept loudly for quite awhile when I hugged her goodbye. But I won’t get to that level of vulnerability unless I know they see me, respect me, and that they keep their agreements with me. I admire people who are just openly vulnerable from the start, that seems like really brave stuff to me.
5. When I think that someone I respect is losing respect for me I am devastated.
I take it very hard when a family member, coworker, or friend who I respect seems to be questioning my integrity or motives. Though I might seem to have a thick skin, I will take that criticism into my heart and dwell on it for days. It is awful for me to think that they don’t trust me. Deep down, I might feel sad that they don’t truly understand me, or afraid that maybe they are right and I am actually a bad person, but what manifests is anger and defensiveness.
6. When I am stressed, I start creating lines between what/who is helping and what/who is hurting me.
If I’m not careful, I can start to put people in those frames. Pretty soon I’m yelling at someone close to me because I’ve judged that they are distracting me from what I’m supposed to be doing, which feels like them trying to control me (an 8’s biggest fear). They seem to be between me and my mission, and I feel scared and angry when that happens. It might seem like I don’t value my relationships as much as my mission, and sometimes I think that way. But then I realize that the truth is my relationships are a large part of why I am here on earth, and loving is actually my greatest strength. Any goal that would need to be accomplished in spite of my relationships isn’t really a goal I want to have at all.
7. I hate when people break agreements.
When someone says they will be somewhere at a certain time, and they come very late, and it doesn’t seem to mean much to them, it drives me crazy. I can’t be in close relationship with someone who I don’t trust, because it doesn’t feel safe. Even if it seems like a small thing, to me it is big. By the same token, I beat myself up about missing appointments, being late, or forgetting to do something for a friend.
8. I’m still trying to find the sweet spot between being bossy and being a doormat.
Because I’ve been told in the past that I can be “bossy”, and because I’m aware of the darker places 8s can go, I’ve worked to be perceived as less confident or intimidating. I’m careful to say “this is my opinion” when working collaboratively because otherwise my suggestions can come across as if it is “The Way”. However, I have to be careful not withdraw so much that I lose my effectiveness, strength and momentum. In the past I have been so worried about people (especially older men I’ve noticed) saying I was too intimidating that I tried to get small, and felt depressed.
So, some of the take-aways about 8s are that although we do not “wear our hearts on our sleeves” like some others, we do have a very deep and passionate love for people and our purpose. In our healthy state, our leadership is a blessing at work and in our families. Though our anger can get out of control, if it is handled well it helps us protect innocent people and challenge injustice. Love the 8s in your life, and help them create places and relationships where they feel safe enough to show you the beautiful and powerful being they are.
I am available as a Shadow Work coach, and also co-facilitate group Shadow Process Days every two-three months. My work is based in creating safe space for individuals and groups to work on tough issues and transform lifelong patterns.
If you have not yet identified your primary type, you can get started here. As tests can be limited, it is always good to read about your top 3 suggested types to discover which one is really you.
9 Responses to Eight Confessions of an Enneagram Type 8 Woman
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I am a coach, facilitator and program director in Denver, Colorado. I bring a high-performance mindset from 18 years leading in global corporations, startups, non-profits and Higher Ed. I’ve also honed skills in emotional intelligence and practical spirituality through training with ICF, Shadow Work®, Insights Discovery and motherhood. If you’re ready to do powerful inner work, and also get tangible results in your external environment, please follow my blog and reach out to talk about coaching!
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Thank you for this post – I think it’s really illuminating and as someone both who has not always found 8 energy easy to grasp and who is looking to cultivate more of it, this is super useful.
The breaking agreements piece was not so front and centre for me and my opinions vs The Way distinction likewise – so much appreciated.
Thank you Jack! I’m glad it was helpful in understanding some of the 8 qualities. Getting lovely response like this definitely encourages me to blog more! Love, Helena
I was struck by the honesty of your potsnig
Thank you for this blog. I am an eight and have going through similar issues. I have always been overwhelming with my energy and so I have worked on being softer, more vulnerable, but then end up being taken advantage of and discounted.
Since I am now more receptive and caring of others (in a world where many are on the make) to prevent them from being overwhelmed, their nature instinct is to interpret my kindness as weakness, playing to their ego, inspirng them to undercut me.
I then have to exert my inner eight (my strong will) and take care of business, and push back — most had no idea I had it in me. But once my EIGHT shows its head, I am never exploited again — at least by those people who have seen it.
I guess it is a balancing act. I am almost of the view that I should just be an Eight and not worry about what others think.
I recent went on a job interview for a position for which I was extremely well qualified. Looking at my credentials, the recruiter wanted to offer me the job sight unseen. ( I think she is a “three.”)
When she finally met me, I was calm, cordial, receptive — as opposed to energizing, overwhelming, driven — as I wanted to demonstrate that I was a team player and could take instruction, etc.
My expression of softness was written off as weakness, ineffectuality, and lack of confidence. I allowed her to dominate the conversation and in turn, the offer was withdrawn.
I don’t know what to say. I think it’s best to reserve your soft side for those close to you — spouse, children, family, close friends. But otherwise be your eight self as I think since being vulerable isn’t natural for us, we are ineffective at it — and what we perceive as trying to be sensitive to others appears to them as people pleasing and invites abuse and exploitation — that’s been my experience anyway.
Thank you for your response! It is so great to hear about another 8 woman experiencing similar things. It’s totally true for me that when I try to repress my eight-ness I feel like I’m denying the world myself and my gifts. And it’s just plain awkward! For me in teams, I don’t mind being given orders if someone else is clearly in charge. I just want to know what is my responsibility. Teams where roles and responsibilities are fuzzy totally drive me crazy.
I do find that it is important to show my vulnerability to my world in authentic ways. Not about people-pleasing, but about letting people see my heart. For instance, I just sang in front of a large group of people at a conference on practical spirituality. I was very moved by what had happened before, and it was a very sacred song, so it was an emotional performance. I know that when people see my heart in that way, they understand me more. That all of my strength, focus, and momentum is all me showing my love.
Oh, one more thing….I almost felt like I was being imprisoned by having to take instructions and join a team where I would be carrying out orders as opposed to giving them. Have you experienced this too?
I felt a bit stressed at having to execute someone else’s vision as opposed to my own. I ended up moving on from that position, where I would have been a vital member of a team to creating my own team where I am the boss — a kind, generous, ethical one who others will love working for and who will tap into the strength of others as opposed to judging and repressing their energies (which I believe was unfairly done to me in this case.)
, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. realize you are where you are beuscae everything is happening according to your plan, right On the flip side, my mom always said, don’t wish your life away. growing up, I would always wish I were older so I could do this or that & didn’t fully enjoy each year as it’s own- just as a means to something better. Now, with my own baby, I couldn’t agree more with her statement- I want to pause each day with her beuscae she changes so much in 24 hrs. Being present & in the moment is so important for me & her. And I am learning to be more an more present in all areas of my life- and with that presence comes gratitude for so much more- and with gratitude things seem to all fall into place according to my plan so, maybe being present is another way to execute your big picture plan ?Keep it coming!XoTara
Ha ha! As a fellow 8 female, I laughed in recognition at each of your points. ESPECIALLY the one about people being late and nonchalant about it, which happened recently. My friend was more than 30 minutes late LEAVING for our appointment, and he’s got a 20 minute drive, so I literally just left and ended the friendship by default. I am sometimes startled by other “types” who see that as no big deal, as indeed he did not. I have no anger, just feel incredulous at his choice.
Like Kate said above, and you acknowledged, I have to say that I have learned to balance my 8-ness in business. I let them take a quick peek at the extent of my force and power, and then I move into kind, supportive and very, very clear. Luckily, my role is about helping people see that doing things the way I request is in their phenomenal best interests. Ha ha!
Thanks for writing this. It is an excellent mirror.
Thanks so much Wendy. I appreciate knowing I’m not alone! I’ll have to remember that: “doing things the way I request is in their phenomenal best interests”. Especially as a soon-to-be parent. SO eight, so funny.