Know thyself

In a large family, sometimes it’s easy to blend in without really knowing what makes you stand out.

I recently started reading Ian Cron’s book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery. Topically, it contains two of my favorite themes: journeys and self discovery so I couldn’t resist picking it up. What I’ve found has been quite illuminating. Unlike a lot of other personality frameworks I’ve explored that seem to focus on more of the positive side of how we present to the world, this one seems to speak more to why we present that way in the first place. There’s also a strong spiritual connection as the framework dates back to early century Christianity. Apparently for centuries, great Christian teachers have said knowing yourself is just as important as knowing God. Makes sense to me.

The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.

Ian Cron

Like any framework that purports to help me better understand myself, I’ve been waiting to come across “my type” with anxiety…right up until the point it was revealed. According to Ian Cron, the truth will set you free, but not until it’s done with you! My experience while reading my specific type was a cross between resigned acceptance, grief, and an anxious- now what do I do about it? It’s not simply that it rang true, it’s that it hit me where it hurts, almost immediately. As Cron writes, we don’t know ourselves by what we get right; we know ourselves by what we get wrong. Apparently for a perfectionist like myself (isn’t acceptance the first stage of dealing with grief?), seeing what I get wrong in black and white was all too clear.

What we don’t know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others.

Ian Cron

Why has this journey of self discovery been important, both for myself as a father and a husband? As I began reading the book, I started thinking about both my type and also the types of others around me. I also considered ways in which how I behave impacts those around me (and boy that wasn’t a fun journey). For example, considering that my wife is likely a peacemaker, I’m starting to better understand what may make her tick. I even thought about a few of my close friends and how the manifestations of their personalities are really deeply rooted in how they view the world.

Considering where my children might fall has also been fascinating. The youngest two daughters I didn’t evaluate, but for Riles, she is showing several signs of being a perfectionist like her dad. Let me read you some of the descriptions of this type so that you’ll understand both my pride and my concern (ha!).

  • I have a lot of self discipline.
  • It seems to me that things are either wrong or right. Everything has a right place, order is important.
  • I spend a lot of time thinking about how I could be a better person.
  • Forgiveness is hard for me.
  • I think it is my responsibility to leave the world better than when I found it.
  • I like routine and don’t readily embrace change.
  • I worry a lot.
  • I have high expectations of myself and others. In fact, I can be critical and judgmental of other people.
  • I find it hard to relax because there’s so much work to be done.

So much of this rings true about both of us. Case in point- everyday when I pick the girls up from school, Riles comes inside, goes straight to her room, closes the door, change clothes and gets to work on her to do list of homework. No prompting required. Oh, and her room stays immaculate. Meanwhile, my daughter Olivia can find a million things to do besides homework, and her room…well it stays in a constant state of turmoil. There are times when I have to actively remind myself (as a perfectionist) that there is more than one way of doing something and let Olivia do her thing. Meanwhile for Riles, I have to constantly get better at modeling chilling out. Because we both can tense up over the smallest imperfections or break in our routines or expectations, I understand her need to find a positive outlet for what can evolve into resentment when things don’t go our way.

Most folks assume that they understand who they are when they don’t.

Ian Cron

As a parenting tool, any of these frameworks (5 love languages, the colors assessment, the Enneagram, etc) seem to be helpful at doing the thing that we as parents need to do more of anyway: pay attention to how both nature and nurture our shaping our children into the people they’re becoming. I agree with Cron when he writes, [people] don’t question the lens through which they see the world, where it came from, and how it’s shaped their lives, or even if the vision of reality it gives them is distorted or true. As long as we stay in the dark about how we see the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we’re prisoners of our history. My hope is that by continuing to explore elements of what I do and why I do it, it’ll better prepare me to help my daughters understand the same things about themselves. Perhaps there’s hope after all that my perfectionist need to make things right with the world will pay off after all!


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