Day 69: Use What You Have

People have asked me the same question I ask myself: why do I share these charts and write these articles? It’s easy for me to look for, find, and express an “acceptable” answer: I want to help and inspire people. But that would be lying. It would be a lie because, even though it’s true in itself, it omits a larger truth: I crave reflection and validation.

It feels really good when people are impressed with my performance, when people look at what I have done and say, “Wow! Good job!” I’m like this because it’s my personality fixation. I am enneagram type three, The Achiever. My deepest, darkest fear is that I am worthless. This drives me to be continuously concerned about how people see me and to try to consistently demonstrate value. I am painfully self-conscious, perpetually unconsciously monitoring what I think other people’s perception of my might be. This is one reason that I prefer to meet with people one-on-one, and why I feel less comfortable in large groups where the focus of interpersonal attention is not well defined: I feel fine being on stage, and I feel fine being in an audience, for example.

Before I go any further, you might be thinking: don’t be so self-conscious, don’t care what others think, do things because you love them, etc, etc. Well, that easy for you to say, because you are clearly a different personality type, and have a different fixation. Your struggle is different than mine, though just as real. A paradox here is that outwardly my personality style looks adaptive: I succeed in the world, and our society prizes that. However, the truth is that I’m always trying, on some level, to get people to like me and value me, which is a pretty repulsive concept in our society. Other personality types don’t seem to have the same kind of polarization about public / private image as enneagram type three, probably because enneagram type three is all about interpersonal value. For example, enneagram type one, The Reformer, is secretly terrified of being wrong and tends to spend a lot of time asserting their rightness upon others.

Anyway, I’m kind of trapped in my personality, as we all are. It’s the lens that I look at the world through, the map that I use to identify the landmarks in the terrain. It’s nearly impossible for me to think, feel, or do anything that is not characteristic of my personality style.

Luckily, I seem to be passionate about increasing my self-awareness and living the most adaptive and fulfilling life possible. This affords me a way out of my predicament. I have done a lot of work on myself, including over twelve years of psychotherapy and fifteen years of meditation. Over that time, my personality fixation has softened, and I have moved along the spectrum from a relatively dysfunctional type three, to a moderately functional type three. One of the ways this manifests is that I am now less interested in being successful by the standards of the group around me and much more interested in being successful by my own standards.

I have realized and chosen what success in my life looks like, what it consists of, and how I will know when I have it. My vision is somewhat decoupled from the culture I live in. For me, success is being emotionally non-reactive, freedom from anxiety, choosing and nurturing loving, supportive relationships, inspiring others, and living a balanced and sustainable life in which all of my needs — including physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, and cognitive — are sufficiently met.

Through my training as a therapist, I have come to understand how that is achievable by the consistent application of free or inexpensive practices. For example, I have first-hand, powerful evidence that practicing Vipassana meditation for an hour twice per day eliminates any trace of anxiety or depression in me.

So then the question is: how can I make this happen? Well, amazingly, since I am motivated by having attention and visibility, and by getting feedback and encouragement from others, I have discovered — in fact stumbled upon — this practice of precisely recording my activities, and sharing them publicly on social media. The feedback has been extraordinary. People love that I do this, and that feels great. A side effect, and an even greater motivator for me, is that people are inspired. Many people have been inspired to change their lives, and their lives have been significantly improved. And my dirty little secret is that I keep doing it because I love the feeling of that. Ultimately, I’m not doing this out of pure altruism. I’m not doing it because I fundamentally want to help people. I’m doing it because it inspires and helps people and THAT MAKES ME FEEL GREAT! I’m am being truly, deeply, and effectively selfish. It really is all about me.

Because I know that I’m going to have to report my daily progress to you all, and because I have a love for the absolute truth, I am diligent about completing as much as possible of the things that I am charting, and also reporting as thoroughly and accurately as possible. But here’s the magic of it: even though I’m sharing my journey in order to help people, inspire people, get kudos, and ultimately feel good by feeding what is left of my personality fixation, I am also doing a metric-shit-ton of transformational practices.

What happens when you have good sleep hygiene, meditate deeply and regularly, workout every day, eat an inflammation-minimizing diet, take long cold showers every day, and journal? What happens is what I write about in these articles, and generally it’s kind of amazing. The results far exceed anything you could expect from any kind of pharmaceutical, and in some instances appear almost miraculous. On top of that, my personality fixation itself is being eroded as my mind becomes more aware and equanimous, and as my body becomes less inflamed, stronger, and more comfortable.

The meta-message I want to convey to you here is that I am using what I already have in abundance: my personality. By understanding it and leveraging it I have been able to find a way to use it to untangle all of my knots, including those related to my personality (which is most of them). Ultimately, this is enabling me to approach my full potential at a velocity that I previously had no idea was possible.

So now I invite you to discover what your personality style is within the enneagram, and get to know it well. Read books like The Wisdom of the Enneagram to understand what motivates you, what you are scared of, and what the highest potential of your personality style is. Then use all of that to effectively untie your own knots, and to bring yourself into a state of ever increasing fulfillment, self-actualization, and freedom from struggle.