Last December, my INFJ friend introduced me to this personality type tool called the Enneagram.
I did the test twice and on the second time, I was typed a 9w1 (the peacemaker).
For the whole of January, I read all the Enneagram books I could find in the libraries, go through all the profiles, and find that type 9 is pretty accurate for me. So I was deadset that my enneagram type is 9w1.
However, after another two months, I started to become a bit skeptical. I realized that there are people I know who are more type 9 than I am.
Sometimes, other people know your type better than you do.
Not long after, the same friend sent me a questionnaire for his INFJ careers workshop. The last question asks, “How does your job tie in with your enneagram type?” I tried to explain it using what I’ve learned and read about type 9, but something felt really off. My explanation doesn’t make sense to me. But since it’s an optional question, I just sent the questionnaire back to my friend.
A few days later, my friend replied to my email and said that from reading my writings, I might want to explore type 4w5. I was a bit doubtful at first. But I spent the whole day thinking hard about this, rereading some of the articles online, and watching video online.
Then, at the end of that day, I realized, “No way, my friend is right. I am a type 4w5!”
Enneagram is a complex personality type tool. Before you read the rest of this blog post, I suggest that you take this free enneagram test or any other tests at least once. So that what I write here will not influence your answers and your type.
My Enneagram Journey: Mistyping Type 4 as a Type 9
The first time I did the test that my friend sent me, I actually have 4w5 or 5w4 as the result. If you look at my result below, everything seems very high. 5 and 4 are the highest, followed by 9 and 2. 1 and 6 are pretty high too.
As I was reading through all the nine profiles, I could tell that my mind gravitated to certain words on the Type 9 profile such as “peace”, “harmony”, “reliable”, and “likable”. After my episode of depression, inner peace and going with the flow are definitely things that I pay more attention to now.
On the flip side, I realized that I was repelling certain words on the Type 4 profile such as “individualistic”, “self-absorbed”, “melancholic, and “defective”. Who would want to be associated with these words?
Reading the profiles affects your test result.
Furthermore, the website says that type 9 is often mistyped as type 2, 4, and 5. So I did the test again.
Yes, as silly as it might sound, I did the test twice on the same day back to back within an hour! And here’s what I got the second time:
If you look closely at my score for type 4, you will notice that it had dropped from 9.4 to 5.7. How could it be possible that my type 4 score dropped so drastically within minutes?
When I was doing the test the second time, I tried to force myself to choose a side. I thought that I had too many “middle-of-the-road” answers and that’s why I had high scores for so many types.
But doing so, I also subconsciously avoided type 4. Once you have read all the profiles, you kinda know which question belongs to which type and the test become less effective.
As a result, I get an extremely high score for Type 9 and all the other types have much lower scores. A clear winner that is predetermined by my subconscious mind.
Facing the Ego and Reconciliation with Spirit
When I first realized that I’m a type 4w5 instead of a type 9w1, I was half-pouting and half-sulking. “I don’t want to be a type 4w5!”
It took me a month or so to reconcile between the ego and the spirit. Reading about my type brought back so many past memories and I went through this emotional roller-coaster ride. One moment, I was connected with the peace within me, and then the next moment, I felt such intense emotional pain from the past. It was so tormenting that I didn’t want to read about the Enneagram anymore.
Understanding your Enneagram type is like facing a full-length mirror.
Your ego has nowhere to hide.
Unlike the MBTI that shows you your cognitive functions and how your mind operates, the Enneagram shows you something much deeper. It shows you your core motivation, your hidden fears, desires, and your egoic patterns and behaviors. Some of which are presented so clearly that it’s difficult to stomach.
But if I were to be completely honest with myself, I’m definitely a type 4. I don’t like to be associated with words such as “self-absorbed” and “defective” but they are all pretty accurate, especially when I was a teenager. There is a huge chunk of my life where I had low self-esteem and spent a lot of time in self-pity and being the victim.
And if I were to examine my actions and behaviors too, a lot of them is a result of wanting to feel unique and have personal significance. It’s my natural tendency and core motivation in life. Being the middle child, I don’t get much attention from my parents. Especially because I’m too independent and obedient and I didn’t cause much trouble, my parents didn’t have to focus on me that much.
So growing up, I felt rather invisible and left out. To survive as a kid, being different became my way to get some attention and love from my parents. This became a habit and I behave the same way in adulthood. I continue to strive for personal significance because there is a little kid in me that wanted to feel important.
Spirituality is about having no-self,
while self-discovery is about finding yourself.
As contradictory as they seem to be, they work hand-in-hand. When you are fully aware of the patterns that your ego has created, you can use it for your spiritual growth. You can choose the right actions in every moment and not let the ego dictates your actions automatically.
Yes, there is no-self, but you also can’t deny that there is a certain pattern of behaviors that is repeating itself and is unique to individual types. Knowing your enneagram personality type helps you transcend your type.
Once you see your ego, you have no choice but to let it go and give up the stories it has been creating. That’s why most people would rather not see themselves so clearly. When you see it, real transformations have to happen. No more excuses!
Enneagram Type 4 Description from an INFJ Perspective
After reading so many books on the Enneagram, it didn’t occur to me that I’m a type 4w5, the Bohemian.
Seriously me, a bohemian? I don’t see myself as someone who is particularly artistic, poetic, or free-spirited.
It’s hard to determine your Enneagram type just by reading the profiles because of various reasons. First, there are healthy and unhealthy levels of each type and they behave very differently (almost contradicting sometimes). Second, different MBTI types could share the same Enneagram type so you might find certain things in your enneagram profile that you can’t relate to. Third, all of us bounce from type to type depending on our phases of life, so you might relate to all the types in one way or another.
Most importantly, words are just words and they can be confusing.
My interpretation of the word “bohemian” might be totally different from your interpretation of the word “bohemian”. As I was reading the books again, I could relate to what’s written about the type 4 from a big picture perspective. But the individual words? Not so much.
In this section, I have picked three words that are commonly found in the type 4 profile, but I’ll explain it from an INFJ perspective. So that it feels more true for an INFJ. At the end of each trait, I also suggest how INFJ Type 4 can rise above these seemingly negative traits.
1. Melancholy: The Ability to See the Imperfection in Life
When I first saw the word “melancholic”, I was like I’m a happy person. I laugh a lot. How could I be melancholic? Then, I remember when others asked me who’s my favorite character from the Pixar’s animation, Inside Out, their answers are always “Joy” and my answer is always, “Sadness.” I guess there is some truth in it.
Compared to most others, I am definitely more comfortable and can be easily drawn to darker emotions such as sorrow, loneliness, and grief. I enjoy watching movies and listening to songs that evoke emotions within me. But sharing other people’s pain is one way INFJ type 4 use their extraverted feeling (Fe) function. We are emotional deep and have a great sense of how other people are feeling, especially their sufferings.
But melancholy is more than an emotion.
At first, I find it’s weird to use emotion such as “melancholy” to describe a person. Emotions change from time to time. We are sad when we are sad and we are happy when we are happy. Using these words in the type 4 profile sounds as though we cry every single day of our life, which is untrue!
Then, I realize that melancholy is deeper than that. It’s the habit of seeing the imperfections in life. It is our constant attraction to sadness. We find sadness beautiful. As INFJs, we are sensitive to other people’s sadness and buried emotions sometimes more than the other person.
When unhealthy, melancholy can lead to self-pitying and extreme moodiness. We dwell on our past too much and sadness is all we could see. For INFJs in particular, we keep reminding ourselves how different, lonely, and misunderstood we are growing up.
From Melancholy to Gratitude and Beauty
Emotions are like colors and they are all neutral. There is no good or bad color. Sadness is just one of the colors among the many colors that a type 4 can see and is very good at seeing.
The problem comes when a type 4 look at the monochromatic black and white picture for too long that we get sucked into its beauty without realizing we are stuck in it. Some of us might even recreate sadness using our imagination to help us with our creative work. There is something sad about having no sadness in life. But that’s because we haven’t learned to see the beauty of the other emotions.
A healthy type 4 will step back and enjoy all the colors in life.
Inspirations can come from other emotions too such as happiness and excitement. I used to write a wide genre of songs from sappy love songs to dark depressing songs, from rock songs to cute songs. Learn to respect and appreciate all emotions, while not hanging onto them. Both sadness and happiness are fleeting.
I know that I’m not a type 9 because I don’t avoid unpleasant emotions to keep inner peace. I embrace the unpleasant emotions as much as I embrace the positive emotions. Seeing that life is fragile might carry a tinge of sadness. But it also makes me more grateful to be alive and help me cherish the moments I spend with others.
2. Envy: Wanting to Be Like Others
Each type has a deadly sin and for type 4, it is envy. I am so grateful that my friend emailed me that day because the word “envy” snapped me out of the drama my mind was creating at that time.
Two days prior, I saw this Facebook photo of my friends having dinner together. At first, I felt a sensation in my chest, but I thought I would be okay with it. So I just ignored the photo. However, later the hurt feeling started to spread and activate my introverted thinking (Ti). I started overthinking, “Why wasn’t I invited?” I could think of several reasons, but ultimately for a type 4, it always comes back to the same conclusion:
“What’s wrong with me?”
The Facebook photo took me back to the time when I was 13 and felt rejected by my classmates. At that time, I didn’t know what an introvert is and definitely had no idea what it was like to be an INFJ. So as a teen, I was always wondering, “Why am I so quiet? Why can’t I get along well with others? Am I so unlikeable? Why can’t I be normal like everyone else?”
Previously, I couldn’t relate to the word “envy” because I don’t really feel that I’m jealous of others. But as I examine deeper, I realize that this feeling of envy is a result of feeling defective and flawed. For an INFJ type 4, this is most apparent in social settings and relationships. I often feel that other people are more likable and popular than I am. They seem to have an easier time making friends. Why can’t I have more friends like them?
We might also be envious of other people’s jobs, success, achievement or even happiness. But these might not be as apparent because we usually covered it up by being unique. More on this later.
From Envy to Self-Compassion and Abundance
Even before I learn about Enneagram, I notice that no matter what social group I’m in, be it in the office with my colleagues or in school with my friends, there will often be this sense that I don’t belong. I could be talking to people and suddenly I felt the group is better off without me.
It’s not necessarily something that they did or didn’t do. My body remembers the emotional pain from my childhood and it gets triggered whenever I was in a social setting. On the thought level, I had already cleared most of the misconceptions and beliefs that I had. It’s just that emotionally and physiologically, I still feel the pain occasionally. It’s something that I have to work on and deal with on a regular basis.
Every time you feel envy, it’s a reminder to practice self-compassion.
Until today, I didn’t know why the other boys rejected me in school. But that’s okay. There is no need to know why. I don’t have to assign a reason for their actions. I also don’t need to know why my friends didn’t invite me to dinner. Instead of over-analyzing the situation and later become self-absorbed, it’s more helpful for me to be in touch with the unworthy feeling that I have and let it go. The more I let go, the weaker the pain becomes.
I also learn not to compare myself with others. Neither being better nor worse than others will make you feel good. Usually, INFJ Type 4 will fantasize about having a good relationship with others to fill up the void inside. But what happens when you wake up from the dream and realize the reality? Instead of having negative comparisons, we are better off feeling the abundance in our existing relationships and not take them for granted.
And more importantly, it’s to feel the abundance in ourselves: I am enough. You are enough. We are all enough.
3. Unique: The Need to Be Different and Significant
Type 4 is often described as unique, original and special. But I don’t necessarily see myself as unique. It’s more like I’m not unique, so I try to be special and find things in my life that make me appear unique.
Also, I feel that “different” might be a better word to describe an INFJ Type 4. We have this habit of looking for differences between others and us. Being different is better than feeling flawed.
It is a protective mechanism that our mind adopts
to prevent us from feeling defective.
If everyone else around you has a lot of friends and you don’t, thinking that’s you are the source of the problem makes you feel worse. But when you rationalize it in such a way that you are INFJ, you are different and rare, and that’s why other people don’t get you or appreciate you, it actually gives you a false sense of self-significance and importance. It deflects your attention away from those unworthy feelings you have inside.
However, this is also the reason why INFJ Type 4 often feel lonely and disconnected from the people and the world around us. Connecting is about finding similarities. But instead, we keep looking for differences to fulfill our ego’s needs of feeling significant and having a unique identity. The more differences we find, the more disconnected and distance we feel with others.
From Unique to Ordinary and Connected
One morning, I was walking along the river and I felt a gush of wind blowing against my skin. At that moment, I felt so blissful. How many of us rush through life without even feeling the wind once? (as in really feel the sensations of the wind on your body). Something so simple can bring so much joy to a person’s life when you know how to stop and appreciate it.
It doesn’t take a lot to feel connected.
Usually, I don’t like crowded places. If the bus or train is crowded, I would rather wait for another one. Then one day, I found myself getting stuck at this crowded train interchange and I had to move along with everyone else. At that time, I felt that I wasn’t just a drop of water. I was the ocean too, moving with the stream of people.
I’m might be different from others in terms of personality, appearance, career, and etc. But in essence, I’m just like everyone else. We are all the same. No matter how special I try to be, we share the same oxygen in the same room. And one day, all of us will evaporate and disappear from the ocean. If I were to find differences with other people, I certainly can. But sometimes, there’s no need to.
Dear INFJ type 4, there is beauty in the ordinary and mundane. If we are able to see how much we are like everyone else in essence and let go of our need to feel different all the time, we will naturally feel more connected with others. I know we are all seeking meanings and significance in our life, work, and relationships. But sometimes, the mundane and simplicity can keep us grounded and connected.
And isn’t this all we need at this moment?
My Enneagram Type 4 Interview
Recently, I did an interview with my friend for Enneagram Type 4. Unlike what I have written above, in this interview, I talk about emotional depth.
For those who are interested to learn more about Enneagram, you can watch my friend’s lectures here. He’s a certified MBTI and Enneagram instructor. He also has this Enneagram Pictorial Test that helps you clarify your enneagram type.
If you want to find out more about how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.
Featured Photo Credit: aurora / aleph.oto