Yesterday I had been going back over my studies of the enneagram type 4 personality. As I reflected on the different yin and yang, shadows and light side, strengths and weaknesses, or the healthy vs unhealthy characteristics… I could not help feeling a little unnerved by the number of times and sources that listed sensitivity and emotions in a negative light.
It took me back to my childhood (or even some times in my life as an adult) where I felt like something was wrong with me for being highly sensitive or “emotional.” Over time I have come to see this as a beautiful gift that allows me to truly be compassionate, empathetic, and yes, “sensitive” to the needs and feelings of others. As a 13-year-old, I took the Myers Briggs personality test and discovered I was an INFJ.
This was my first Ah-ha moment that helped me understand and identify with my natural cycles of emotions, as well as, to be more aware of my sensitivity to pick up on the feelings of others around me, almost as if their feelings were my own. Now the term “empath” has become a more acceptable term, I can better help other people understand my ebbs and flows, but more important I can be more aware of how I pick up on other people’s feelings, and can therefore consciously work at separating their feelings from my own.
Over the years, my curious mind and need to understand myself and how I relate to others, lead me to experiment with and learn about many different personality types, archetypes, and more spiritual modalities such as animal spirits and human design. In the beginning, it was from a natural drive and need to better understand myself and where I fit in the world around me. Needless to say, my thirteen-year-old self is doing her party dance, celebrating the recent ah-ha moments I’ve had in looking at the ins and outs of using personality tests and archetypes to better understand myself.
However, it is not about categorizing ourselves to fit in. Rather, it’s about looking at the highest and lowest expressions of each of those characteristics. Doing this can help you embrace each part of yourself with love and grace in order to step into a higher expression of yourself. However, these are not only tools to help us expand and grow on a personal level, they also help us build better relationships with our friends and family members, as well as develop more meaningful interactions with all those that we connect with.
These tools should not be used as a way to label ourselves and others, or as a way of putting anyone into a box. By using them in that way, we not only limit ourselves and others, but we also create judgment, biases, and stereotypes. Instead, these should be used as mirrors to reflect back at us areas where we are thriving and connecting with ourselves and others from a place of love and compassion, rather than from judgment and discrimination. These tools are a reflection pool of hope to help us grow as individuals, families, communities, and as a society.