By Melanie Conner
Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison, APUS
By now, you’ve seen the memes about 2020: killer hornets, masks, toilet paper shortages, virtual learning, social distancing, COVID-19 and racial inequality. Some days, it might feel like we’re living in a real-world version of the game “Jumanji.”
The year 2020 has been rocky. No, it’s been vicious. If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering, “How do I respond to this (killer hornets, virtual learning) when I just came to terms with that (social distancing, toilet paper shortage)?”
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Simply put, 2020 has taken a toll on our emotional, physiological, and social well-being. In fact, it’s one a.m. and I am lying awake, thinking of our world. My house is a disaster (I’m playing hopscotch trying to jump over the messes that my toddlers make); I’m mentally and physically exhausted; and my heart hurts from the current state of our society.
I’m thinking, “How can I help? What can I do?” Naturally, my Enneagram type clears up why I’m thinking of these things at one a.m.
What Is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a tool for discovering one’s personality type. According to The Enneagram Institute, “At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.”
There are nine Enneagram types. Each type has traits in the unhealthy, average, and healthy range, and people can fluctuate constantly between the unhealthy to healthy traits.
Also, individuals do not change from one type to another. The Enneagram lets individuals discover their personality type and identify their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a great tool for identifying your emotional intelligence and how you relate to others while focusing on self-awareness.
I learned about the Enneagram about two years ago, and it’s really helped me to understand myself and how to respond to current situations. I am a Type 2 Enneagram. Type 2s are considered helpers and givers. Our dominant traits are generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing and possessive.
Related link: Curious to know what your traits are? Discover your Enneagram type.
When I received my type, I researched how 2s are in relationships, how they are as children, and how they are as parents. I nodded my head in agreement as I read about the personality of a type 2 and where my areas of weakness and strengths were.
What I love about the Enneagram personality test is that it has allowed me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses, particularly during the tumultuous 2020 we’ve had so far. Here are some ways that I’ve learned to help and to give based on my Enneagram type:
1. Facing conflict in favor of maintaining relationships. As a Type 2, facing conflict can be particularly difficult, as I do not like it. However, I know that addressing issues at hand is essential to move forward in relationships.
I do not like it when individuals are cold or indifferent to me. So during 2020, I have focused hard on getting to know friends and family and their desires, so that I can dedicate my attention to the things that are at the forefront of our relationship.
2. Accepting that mistakes happen. As a Type 2, I can be extremely sensitive to criticism, and I do not like to mess up. Pride is one of my weaknesses, but I recognize that we all make mistakes. It’s okay to be called out for doing something wrong.
For me, recognizing that I can still help even if I messed up is the key to moving forward. That thought has been helpful in stressful times, such as when my toddlers have been at home with me while I was working.
3. Supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement. I wanted to best support this movement with empathy and a deep understanding, which are key traits of my personality type. As a Type 2, I have focused my efforts on how to show support without the expectation of a good response from someone else. I’ve also been listening and learning.
For instance, I recently read “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown, which was recommended to me based on my Enneagram type. I’ve also written petitions and emails and supported black-owned businesses and programs that support racial equality.
4. Acting as a mentor. As a Type 2, I love to help people. American Public University System (APUS) offers a mentoring platform, ClearPath, where students and alumni can connect with one another. Mentors can coach and motivate mentees in a variety of ways, including time management, networking and professional experience.
In the directory, mentors can find people with common interests and people who completed the same degree program. This platform provides a great opportunity to build a socially distant and mutually beneficial relationship during our social distancing times.
As we continue through all that 2020 has given to us so far and prepare for the next round of the real-life Jumanji we’re living, I leave you with a quote from a fellow Type 2:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mr. Rogers
I encourage you to research your Enneagram traits to determine how best to navigate these tough times. Even though we might be socially distant from one another, that shouldn’t stop us from discovering more about ourselves and forming new relationships.
About the Author
Melanie Conner is a student and alumni affairs liaison at American Public University System. She has worked in this role for three years and worked previously in academic advising for six years. Having worked in higher education for almost 10 years, Melanie has enjoyed cultivating relationships with students and alumni. Melanie taught high school English and Spanish for a few years and enjoyed working with the students to meet their physical, emotional, intellectual, and social needs. She has undergraduate degrees in education from Germanna Community College and in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.
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