Today we get to hear from an Enneagram expert about her mistyping journey, and I’m so excited to bring this conversation to you because so many of us go through our own mistyping journey. Mistyping is thinking or being told and believing that we are one Enneagram type, and then later finding out that that is not the case; we have mistyped ourselves, and we actually lead from a different Enneagram type than we first thought. Sometimes people are mistyped multiple times before landing on their Enneagram type, and today we are going to hear from Jen Higgins, who is an expert in the Enneagram field. She is the host of the “Unboxing Your Personality Podcast”, where she has been helping business owners understand their personality and how to talk to the different Enneagram types; and she is the author of “The Secret to Being You: Using Brain Science and the Nine Acknowledgment Languages to Unbox your Enneagram.” I can tell you myself that this is a great book since I was able to get an advance copy and was honored to be asked to write a foreword for it. So full disclosure: I have read it, and it has my stamp of approval for you to go out and grab a copy for yourself! So with that said, let’s get to my conversation with Jen.
Welcome, Jenn! We are so excited that you are here to share some of your story and your expertise as you help business owners fulfill and realize their potential. We’re just so glad to have you here. We would love for you to let us know a bit about who you are and how you help people.
Thank you. I’m so excited about being here too! I am a business strategist, and my specialty is the Enneagram. I help online business owners develop their “signature offer” that is aligned with their personality style, and on top of that, when they create their content for their courses, they can use the Enneagram to make sure that they’re connecting with their audience!
I think that is so needed: to be able to recognize how we ourselves are showing up, as well the perspectives of other people, and how we can use our own zone of genius or business expertise to really get that across and connect with the people that need it.
I love that you are living your purpose and doing what you love to do, and using the Enneagram as a part of helping people do all that.
You have also written a book! Before we dive into some of your story, if you wouldn’t mind telling us just a little bit about your book and who it’s for, I know a lot of people are going to be very interested in it.
Well the book was actually written because of high demand from my students! I have a coaching certification program, and in that program I recommend a book that is very aligned to me; I’m aligned to the author and her philosophy of really using the Enneagram as a tool to grow instead of just typing yourself.
My students told me that while they love that book, it just wasn’t me; they wanted me to write my own book, in my voice, so that they would have it as a resource for all I had taught them.
And so that’s where the book came from, and instead of narrowing the focus in and writing it just for my clients specifically, I decided to market it to the general public, for beginners to really start from the beginning, and allow it to be a guide for anyone; then if one day they want to be a coach, they have this as a guide to help them really connect to themselves and to others. The name of the book is called “The Secret to Being You: Using Brain Science and the Nine Acknowledgment Languages to Unbox your Enneagram.”
I was so blessed to be asked to write a forward for the book! It was just wonderful being able to read it, because it’s so different and unique, but really holds the Enneagram framework with so much holistic help; there is so much available in there that is easy to digest, but goes quite deep. And that’s what I love about it. I mentioned in the forward that it’s full of so much knowledge, but it’s still accessible.
Alot of people think that since we are teaching on the Enneagram, then we must have it all together; we have done all of the work that there is to do. But that is very much not the case! Both of us are still learning, working, and growing; everybody is on a journey and nobody has made it. And so what I would love to share here is what the journey has been like for you, and one of the things that I’d love to get your opinion on first is mistyping and what that was like for you.
This is kind of a platform of mine, that mistyping is very, very common, which is why I don’t really recommend that people take tests! I joke about us being in the middle of a pandemic, but it’s not COVID; it’s Enneagram mistyping! Worldwide, people are being mistyped because they think the Enneagram is a test; and it’s not a test! It is a system.
There are so many things that go into why we get mistyped, and it’s all psychology-based. I do have a background in psychology and business analytics, so I’m kind of in this unique position to see how the brain is working and understanding the psychology behind self-report data and what’s reliable data, and Enneagram testing is just not really reliable! There are two reasons for this, and I do go into this in my book, but what I do is I distinguish the difference between the nature of your personality and the nurture of your personality.
The nurture is more of the style, or the coping strategies, the behaviors; a lot of that is what you will read in the stereotypical behaviors of the types.
The nature is based on the motivations of why we do that. There are certain telltale behaviors that are not necessarily healthy and not necessarily unhealthy that we go through, depending on what your type is, that can indicate that we have been “triggered”: that there is the presence of stress, a boundary has been crossed, or we haven’t gotten a need met; something is creating some kind of stress in our lives, and what our bodies are reacting.
Think of when you cut yourself. It’s going to bleed, and through that blood, your body is sending oxygen and white blood cells, all these things to help heal that cut. And so our bodies are constantly trying to work toward this homeostasis of healing, and it’s naturally designed to do that because God is amazing!
Well, our psyches do this also! We have what I call a “personality reflex” that start a protocol when it’s wounded in order to heal it, to compensate for any shift or this imbalance, and I think the Enneagram does such a wonderful job of explaining that!
I’m not saying that the Enneagram is the only way to explain that; it just makes so much sense to me to use the Enneagram because it includes the nature part, but it also includes the nurture part of how we adapt in the form of wings, instincts, stress/security number… all of these different things of integration and disintegration can all be explained in one little symbol. And I just think it’s absolutely fascinating!
How did you feel when you first realized that you were mistyped? Was it a relief? Did you feel feel grief and loss? What was that like for you?
Well, I’m a type seven, so at first I thought it was hilarious! I had no test tell me that I was a seven until after I knew I was a seven. I had all kinds of tests each tell me a different result, like type one or type 4. I had settled on four because I really felt like I was dramatic, and all the stereotypical things (that I’m sort of embarrassed to admit to now!) I was dramatic, I always thought I was different, I felt like I needed to stand out…I was going through a depression at the time, and so a lot of things made me believe that I was type four.
The person that I was certified under also said something that I thought was really interesting. She says that type fours tend to identify with all the negative traits of every type, and because I could see myself in every type, I thought that really solidified that I was a type four.
This actually comes into the whole mistyping journey. One of the reasons why we get mistyped is because of self-awareness; the more aware we are, the more we can see, the more in touch we are to all these pieces in us, because we have every single type within us.
I like to compare it to the Fruit of the Spirit. So we happen to have all the Fruits of the Spirit, but do we access them all the time? We don’t! One of them is going to be easier for us to access; like for me, I believe it’s joy. And so when we are super aware of ourselves, it can be really easy for us to mistype.
The consequences of mistyping is that our patterns of behaviors are different, depending on where our Homebase is, where we’re starting on the diagram; because those lines are not just lines; they’re arrows, roadways and pathways that guide in how to cope in a healthy way.
Something I love to do is to teach with Legos, and one of the Lego builds that I have is a mountain. At the base of the mountain is the Enneagram symbol, laying flat like a plate, and if you were to put a pile of mashed potatoes on it, that is what this Lego mountain looks like. At that base, on the plate, we all start at a different spot; that’s our home base. But as we mature and become more aware, we move forward and climb that mountain up to the top. That’s our goal. You can even imagine that this mountain looks a little like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with self-actualization right at the top.
Now, in my opinion, we never actually get to the top; that’s where Jesus sits. Our goal throughout life, though, is to get up there to the top of that mountain, and the higher we get, the more we can see; the higher we get, the more we can see those pieces inside of us too.
When we don’t understand what our true type is, and we’re mistyped, we end up going around circles at the base of the mountain, and never really seeing us for our true selve, never really understanding why we do the things that we do. It all just becomes kind of random, which confuses us, and a confused mind shuts down. That’s where disconnection and depression comes in,
I really love that visual; it’s one that really helps me just keep in context of why I love the Enneagram so much and why it’s important for me to know my type! It’s not about growing out of your type; it’s really about growing into your type and taking what makes you such an awesome type as your gift into the world. That’s the nature of your personality.
And then the nurture of your personality– your upbringing, your childhood, your learning style, your teaching style, your parenting style, even your attachment style–all of those styles are what make you uniquely you.
That nurtured part of your personality, combined with the nature part of your personality, is why you are so unique, and that uniqueness is what you bring into the world. It fuels your purpose and it’s what brings the kingdom together!
That mountain is a beautiful picture that you share, and you use that a lot in your teaching; and I think the reason is because it helps us visualize how you can kind of access and take on traits or behaviors that might seem foreign or even inaccessible to you when starting out on the growth journey, but become easier for us to live out, whatever God might be calling us to in the moment as we get closer to the top of the mountain. And as we get closer to the top of the mountain, we’re able to see and validate and honor perspectives that are different from ours without in any way invalidating our own.
Could you let us in on what happened in that moment to help you know that you were mistyped, and now you found your type?
It was very validating; it was surprising and it was validating. So let’s start with the surprising, because type seven was the type that I had eliminated pretty early on because of this stereotypical profiling. I was like, wait, I’m way too responsible to be a type seven. Well, that’s not very Christ-like to kind of pigeonhole people and saying all type sevens are irresponsible!
If I may, I want to back up and address that. We can relate to these caricatures because the further we are down at the mountain, that’s where we’re different; that’s where you can really see the difference in our behaviors. But on the inside, we’re all the image of God. So we’re all the same on the inside, and the more we climb the mountain, the more we can see what we have in common, the more we can connect and, and become the human race instead of individual people. We become a part of a system, the body of Christ.
So it was surprising because I had painted this picture in my head of what a type seven was like, and I really didn’t think I matched it.
If you don’t know my story, my firstborn son was diagnosed with autism when he was age four, and I didn’t really understand what that meant, so I took it well at first. But then as things got more and more difficult, as I started seeing the consequences of me not acting now and not not differing the responsibility, I realized if I didn’t do something right away, didn’t “grow up” now and be an adult, then my life is going to be miserable.
I can temporarily be miserable for a long-term gain, and that’s kind of a mantra of a type seven when they are maturing is like, “okay, now I recognize I need to do this now.” I’m good at reframing, and I’m good at accessing my joy, so even though I’m miserable, my misery is probably still happier than other people’s misery. So putting things in that perspective really helped me get through a lot of things.
So the validating part of that moment was realizing: that means I am fun; I am the fun mom! And it made me see what I do in a different light: how I made therapy easier, or more fun. It was easier on me because I was making it fun, and I wish I could say the parenting style that I adopted was because I’m an awesome parent; but the truth is, it came from a lot of my own coping strategies of “if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry” and really, really making sure that my kids were happy.
However, it made me really cognizant about what I was doing that would make them unhappy; it made me really motivated when they were stressed out, so whenever they were uncomfortable, it really motivated me to make them laugh, to make them more comfortable, to really tell them a story or tell them a joke. And it became a distraction.
As parents, we always think we’re screwing up our kids, but mine are both teenagers now and just seeing how they are…I mean, I couldn’t be prouder. They are so good at self-regulating, and these are things that I was able to teach them because I helped them understand their personality, and I help them understand that labels are just labels, that behaviors are just behaviors, and behaviors can change and hearts can change; but your core is, is there. I tell them, “I love you despite the autism, despite the sensory issues”; this was a hard behavior, this was an unpleasant behavior, but I know who you are.
I think a lot of what Scripture tells us can be explained by the Enneagram, and in a very high-level way, it helped me really put the Bible stories into context. Jesus told these parables, and one example is the Parable with three stories right in a row: the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. They are basically the same story told in different ways, and I realized that it’s because he’s speaking to different personality types, because we all are drawn to something different from the inside. And we can make our behaviors look the same because we’re great actors, but from the inside, we’re all driven differently and we’re designed that way.
And that was my amazing conversation with Jen Higgins. I hope that you enjoyed it. We did have some technical difficulties towards the end, and got cut off, but I’m so grateful that we got the meat of this conversation and you were able to hear her heart, her mistyping journey and how the Enneagram has impacted her spiritual walk and how she is able to hear from God in her spiritual life.
You can learn more about Jen through these links:
Website || Unbox University
Bootcamp || Create Your Signature Offer
Book || The Secret to Being You!: Using Brain Science & the 9 Acknowledgment Languages™ to Unbox Your Enneagram
Instagram || @powercoachjen
Enjoy this post? Have a question? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or over on Instagram. If you’re ready for the next step in your Enneagram journey, grab a copy of The Enneagram for Beginner’s book (affiliate link, thank you for your support!) or enroll in Enneagram 101, the on-demand course that will help you no matter where you’re at. If Merch is what you’re looking for, check out the Christian Enneagram Shop. Happy learning and growing! ~ Kim