How the Enneagram Can Help You Combat Shame


Everyone experiences shame at some point in their lives… and it stinks, right?!

It’s that pit in your stomach, the knot in your throat, or (as the dictionary puts it) the painful feeling of humiliation or distress. 

The feeling you feel when you think you’ve done something wrong, bad, or embarrassing. 

And again, shame stinks. 

Because while the brain might try to tell us that feeling bad about something is how we avoid doing it again in the future, we know we have to heal shame – and move past it – to accomplish what we really want: growth.

As I’m sure you know by now, one of the reasons I love the Enneagram so much is that it serves as an incredible tool for growth in our lives. It’s not just a fun thing to read about or something that tells us more about ourselves. It’s that and ALSO a tool to grow, accomplish our goals, and have the relationships, businesses, and lives we really want. 

So, the best thing we can do to move past shame – which we need to do to move forward – is to face it head-on and talk about it. 

Here’s how your Enneagram number can help you face shame and move past it so you can have better relationships, better businesses, and experience more joy in your life.

Enneagram Ones: Beyond the Strive to be Perfect

Ones experience a lot of shame when they make mistakes. No one is perfect, but Ones make it their goal to be. So, when a mistake is made, they double down on their efforts to be good and right. They make sure that what is perfect is known by everyone in order to lead prying eyes away from potential imperfections. They’re comfortable pointing out the faults of others but that often just pushes others away. The next time you’re feeling shame over a mistake – or feeling that pull to require someone else to live up to your (often unattainable) standards, try letting it be okay. See how the mistake maybe isn’t as big of a deal as it feels (and I know it feels big) by remembering you’re human and a mistake doesn’t make you “bad” or “wrong”.

Enneagram Twos: Beyond Manipulation

The shame of Twos is revealed when they use manipulative behavior or have to ask indirectly to get an unspoken need met. Twos do not want to share their own needs out of fear that if they ask for help, others will say no or think they’re a burden. They feel shame in believing they are too needy and can sometimes smother those they love and care about in order to satisfy their core longing of being wanted and loved. Knowing that needy behavior can push some people away, Twos need to practice asking directly for what they need and challenge themselves to separate their asking from someone else’s response.

Enneagram Threes: Beyond the Drive for Success

Threes fear failure and can experience shame when they fail or feel like a fraud or don’t live up to a high standard. They use success as a strategy to overcome shame because it feels like their worth is based on what they do. To cope with the shame, they choose to just work harder. They sometimes ignore family and friends which makes people feel like they are not a valuable part of their lives. They may also ignore health and well-being when these feelings hit. For Threes, it’s important to push past shame by taking care of themselves and their loved ones rather than trying to achieve or do more.

Enneagram Fours: Beyond Deficiency

Fours shame can come from believing they have an unredeemable deficiency and are flawed. They envy others and think everyone else has the very thing that they are deficient in. Fours will often turn inward and list all their faults and failures. The paradox is that they value being different, yet that difference becomes like a mirror, and the only thing they see. Staying a victim can eventually push everyone away, so Fours are challenged to feel their shame and see the bigger picture: the beauty of their differences and independence.

Enneagram Fives: Beyond Lack

Fives have an insatiable hunger for knowledge and value being competent and having all the right answers. So, Fives experience shame when they don’t have the right answers. They delay making decisions in order to gain more knowledge and do more research. They feel they never have enough resources (time, talents, energy) so they hoard them. That hoarding behavior and constant quest for more knowledge to avoid shame can drive their people away. Instead, Fives can find growth and healing in taking the one right next step for them rather than waiting until they have all 100 steps. 

Enneagram Sixes: Beyond the Fear and Questions

Sixes question themselves and their situations constantly, which reveals their shame. They seek security to overcome their crippling fear, so they plan for every contingency and worst-case scenario. “Did I say the right thing? Did I do it wrong?” They start to plan more and more in order to avoid the overwhelming sense of shame and fear. This constant questioning and fear can appear as pessimism and drive people away. Sixes want to instead practice trusting themselves and their decisions, focusing on doing what they can with what they have and letting that be enough.

Enneagram Sevens: Beyond The Giant Rug

Sevens don’t want to feel trapped in emotional pain and turmoil, so they sweep negative emotions under the rug. But, the rug just grows bigger and they eventually have to deal with those emotions. They experience shame when having to face the things they keep sweeping under the giant rug or when the next big adventure does not satisfy their need to escape. Refusing to be present or work through negative emotions can drive away people they love, so Sevens want to make space for the tough feelings by not making those feelings “wrong”. 

Enneagram Eights: Beyond The Control

Eights like to assert power and believe vulnerability is weakness. Their fear of being betrayed if they show their weakness turns into a power struggle which triggers them to be quick to anger. To forget and run away from their shame caused by weakness, they will just strive for more power and control. However, the betrayal and abandonment they fear will eventually happen as those they love feel the need to escape out from under their control and anger. Eights want to see how vulnerability can bring them closer to their loved ones and is not in opposition to strength.

Enneagram Nines: Beyond Conforming

Nines value peace at all costs, even at the cost of their own identity. They experience shame knowing that they have an opinion and a voice, but they choose to stay silent in order to maintain a peaceful world. They tell themselves “Everyone will be mad at me and leave me if I am honest and assert myself so I will just affirm everyone else’s perspective.” Sometimes, this can push people away because they don’t really know where they stand or what they stand for. Next time a Nine feels this shame, they may want to try saying what’s really on their heart or mind, trusting themselves to do so.

Whether you want to feel less shame – and more acceptance and joy – in your life or you want to better engage and communicate with your loved ones, The Enneagram can help. 

Sometimes you need a little guidance on the road to self-discovery. A roadmap, so to speak. THAT is what the Enneagram is for. To help you on the journey. The destination will be different for everyone, but the progress you’ll make in getting there will be greatly enhanced with help from the Enneagram (and me, of course!). ⠀⠀

Here’s what a past client said about the Enneagram and how navigating negative emotions with this roadmap helped her life and business.

“My own negative thoughts and lack of confidence held me back from growing my business. I spent a year trying to grow it on my own until I finally gave myself permission to ask for help. Alicia used her expertise to teach me what my strengths were and how to use them. She helped identify what I needed to acknowledge and change with her honest, yet gentle feedback. She has your BEST interest at heart. She’s practical, detailed, and gave a plan that could be implemented immediately. She taught me how to serve my clients so much better by making better decisions today, and not waiting on someday.” – Tina ⠀⠀⠀

You can serve your clients better, your family better, and your friends better by getting out of your own way (and moving past any shame, negative feelings, or limiting thoughts you have), and I can help you do that.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Learn more about how the Enneagram can help you heal, grow, and improve every aspect of your life here.

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Alicia Larkey, Enneagram Life Coach | Site design by Jessica Gingrich