As humans, we love to classify things; it’s our way of understanding the world in manageable pieces. When it comes to people, we really love to categorize individuals into personality types so that we can better understand how they tick and how to interact with them. Hence, the Enneagram personality model, which was introduced to the modern world by philosopher and teacher George Gurdjieff in 1915. (Its roots date back even earlier, though the exact origins are disputed.)
The term “Enneagram” stems from the Greek words ennéa, meaning “nine,” and grámma, meaning “written” or “drawn.” The model is based around a collection of nine different but interconnected personality types. The Enneagram theory discerns between a “healthy” and “unhealthy” version of each type, with a wide spectrum in between offering a path to self-improvement. In modern times, the Enneagram is often used in business, leadership, and spiritual settings to help people gain a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. Generally speaking, though, it is not widely accepted as an actual scientific “diagnosis.” Rather, it’s a self-help tool that can be used as a jumping-off point for exploration, inspiring us to think more deeply about ourselves and our relationships with others.
Though many different names are attributed to each of the nine personality types, for purposes of consistency, we will use the names given to each type by The Enneagram Institute: The Reformer, The Helper, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Investigator, The Loyalist, The Enthusiast, The Challenger, and The Peacemaker. Below, we’ve compiled some meaningful quotes that touch upon key traits for each type.
TYPE ONE: THE REFORMER
The most dangerous way we sabotage ourselves is by waiting for the perfect moment to begin. Nothing works perfectly the first time, or the first 50 times. Everything has a learning curve. The beginning is just that — a beginning. Surrender your desire to do it flawlessly on the first try. It’s not possible. Learn to learn. Learn to fail. Learn to learn from failing. And begin today. Begin now. Stop waiting.
— Vironika Tugaleva
Enneagram Type 1 is perhaps also known as “the Perfectionist.” Those who fall into this Enneagram type tend to have lofty goals and strict moral codes that help guide their decision-making and ambitions. They also often have a deep sense of moral obligation to be the best person they can be in order to serve others — examples of well-known Enneagram Type 1s include Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Michelle Obama, for instance. An issue many Type 1s face is being their own worst critic and constantly trying to be seen as the responsible or reliable one of a group, even as they have roiling emotions and passions they’re trying to tamp down. One important thing for Type 1s to remember, then, is that not everything has to be perfect all the time, and it’s OK to allow room for mistakes and setbacks.
TYPE TWO: THE HELPER
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
— Albert Einstein
When it comes to Enneagram Type 2s, life begins and ends with love: love for family, for friends, and for strangers. Compassion and generosity are at the root of a Type 2’s decision-making, and help guide the relationships they build throughout their lives. Someone who is a Type 2 thrives when serving others, with the tiny caveat that they oftentimes want others to acknowledge their selflessness, too. Enneagram Type 2 individuals are warm in part because they care a lot about people, and in part because they crave the feeling of being needed; their sense of self is very much tied to others’ gratitude and approval. Famous individuals who are Enneagram Type 2s include Stevie Wonder, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Desmond Tutu.
TYPE THREE: THE ACHIEVER
Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
— Seth Godin
There is no task too large for the Enneagram Type 3. Individuals who identify most strongly with this type tend to be goal-oriented, charismatic, driven, and accomplished from an early age. They often have magnetic personalities and lean heavily on others’ perceptions of them as role models to dictate who they want to be. As a result, however, they can get lost in a blur of constant doing instead of just being. Enneagram Type 3s are sometimes characterized as workaholics or overachievers who want to impress their peers, even at the expense of their own health and well-being. Examples of famous Type 3s include Truman Capote, Will Smith, and Ryan Seacrest, all of whom were/are known for their busy social calendars and many achievements.
TYPE FOUR: THE INDIVIDUALIST
Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Those who identify with Enneagram Type 4, otherwise known as “the Romantic,” are creative spirits to the bone. They are highly sensitive, self-aware, and emotionally honest, sometimes to a fault — a problem some Enneagram Type 4 individuals have is wallowing in self pity or constantly feeling like an outsider looking in. But it should be noted that Enneagram Type 4s’ individuality is also their biggest asset: They love being surrounded by beautiful things, and very much prize creation over consumption. Case in point: Famous Enneagram Type 4s include Stevie Nicks, Miles Davis, Virginia Wolfe, and Frida Kahlo. Type 4s are also particularly well-equipped to handle grief, which makes sense, given how much creativity can arise from sadness.
TYPE FIVE: THE INVESTIGATOR
Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.
— Susan Sontag
Of the nine Enneagram types, those who are Type 5 are perhaps most driven by the pursuit of knowledge. Individuals who most strongly identify with this type aren’t satisfied with the status quo, and always want to know why something is the way it is, digging deep into the scaffolding of society to find answers for their many questions. Type 5s are innovative and have the potential to be true visionaries — famous individuals include Albert Einstein, Jane Goodall, Mark Zuckerberg, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The proclivity for eccentricity runs so rampant among Type 5s, in fact, that they often reject easy answers to their queries, preferring to be challenged intellectually with more complex solutions. As a result, they are insatiably curious, and spend much of their life gathering knowledge.
TYPE SIX: THE LOYALIST
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.
— Oprah Winfrey
Enneagram Type 6 individuals are all about planning ahead, especially when it comes to social situations. Alert, perceptive, and responsible, Type 6s want to do the most to avoid being caught off-guard, and this includes surrounding themselves with loyal, loving friends and family. Safety and security are huge motivators for those who are a Type 6, and this manifests itself in a certain kind of “hunkering down” when it comes to ideas, lifestyle choices, and beliefs. Well-known Type 6s include Spike Lee, Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Aniston, and Mike Tyson. Type 6’s relationships very much revolve around trust and guidance, but once earned, that individual will be a loyal friend for life.
TYPE SEVEN: THE ENTHUSIAST
The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
— Eleanor Roosevelt
There is so much to love about life when you’re an Enneagram Type 7. Ruled by optimism, ideas, and spontaneity, Type 7s are very carpe diem about the brief time we all have on this earth, and they want to maximize their experiences in every sense of the word. Type 7s are impulsive and enthusiastic, and their excitement for life is infectious. They feel most alive when they’re in pursuit of a new idea or spearheading a new project, but as a result, they often need constant mental stimulation, and the less endearing reality is that their pursuit of novelty may be an exhausting, never-ending one. Famous Type 7s include Joe Biden, Britney Spears, Robin Williams, and Amelia Earhart.
TYPE EIGHT: THE CHALLENGER
With confidence, you have won before you have started.
— Marcus Garvey
If Enneagram Type 8 individuals were a horoscope sign, they would undoubtedly be Leos: confident, assertive, and fierce. Those who identify most with Type 8 are natural leaders, and are unafraid to speak their mind in defense of their beliefs. They are protective of those closest to them as well, and prize independence and endurance. With their natural leadership skills, Enneagram Type 8s are able to influence others easily, and often choose careers as politicians, lawyers, public speakers, and other forms of changemakers. Kamala Harris, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, and Clint Eastwood are all Type 8s. One of Type 8’s weaknesses, however, is never wanting to show weakness or vulnerability, which can ultimately lead to feelings of frustration and being misunderstood.
TYPE NINE: THE PEACEMAKER
Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.
Of all the nine Enneagram types, Type 9 individuals are perhaps the most spiritual. Driven by peace — both within themselves and with those around them — Type 9s are averse to conflict and therefore have a more go-with-the-flow attitude. This is not to say, however, that Type 9s are pushovers. They can also be very stubborn, and will push back if provoked, though oftentimes in a passive-aggressive manner. Individuals who identify with this type make great mediators, but often have to work to prioritize their own boundaries and beliefs over stronger personality types. Famous Type 9s include Carl Jung, Audrey Hepburn, and Gloria Steinem.