The Enneagram, escapism, and accepting our flaws

I spend a lot of time thinking about how we try to understand our minds and personalities. This is one topic that has never bored me.

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I’m generally a pretty happy person, and I have a lot to be thankful for, but it’s also difficult being susceptible to the whims of my emotions. Below the happy exterior is a mildly unhappy person waiting to come out. To be completely open, recently I had a pretty low day. I am an INFP, and enneatype 4w5 (on the Enneagram). I was sucked into depressive thought cycles. Enneatype 4s are prone to seclusion and depression, and may typically be described as fundamentally unhappy with themselves (not others). We are internal perfectionists seeking an intangible, nameless ideal. It’s no wonder we get depressed.

I had started feeling (in typical 4 fashion) that on an intrapersonal level I seriously lacked compared to others. I was so strongly reminded of all of my flaws and shortcomings (that I have no control over) that I fell into a bout of mild despair. All of the colour was sucked out of my world. The worst question a 4 can ask of themselves is “who am I supposed to be?” I was asking myself that all day and wrote out a series of reflective questions that seriously called all of my “flaws” out into the open. All I could see was how much of a failure I am.

It may not seem too surprising that for people who love speculative fiction, cosplay, and daydreaming, they may enjoy pretending to be someone else. I have always done this, since I was young. 4s tend to idealize other people and emulate qualities that they feel they lack. I do this all the time with fictional characters in TV shows and movies – a character (man or woman) has a personality I admire or relate to, and wish I could be like them. When I was younger, I would naturally begin to act and talk like them and felt empowered because I was replacing my old flawed self with someone I thought was much cooler than me.

This is a variation, ironically, on the 4’s drive to be unique. 4s are often described as “envious,” a description with which I passionately disagree. Outside of the enneagram, envy is a despicable character flaw and so I reject that description. Maybe in their very unhealthiest a 4 may feel envy of another, but I personally don’t feel it that way. Anyone can feel envy of another. An envious person looks at what others have and wishes that those people didn’t have it so that he or she feels better about his or herself. Look at the story of Cain and Abel. Look at the evil creature Envy in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I think a 4 not so much wants to take, but to belong. We want to partake but not steal. To envy’s last breath it steals, even to its own detriment.

So, I hate envy and how it is applied to poor innocent 4s. “Longing” is used instead to describe how we wish to be unique. We long for internal perfection. It’s more of a self-rejection and primal acknowledgement that we have a uniquely-shaped hole that needs to be filled. When we fail to fill it, we feel ashamed. A 4 “knows” they don’t belong anywhere, and want to be a part of a world where they do belong. We look to others to attempt to fill that hole because we see ourselves as insufficient to be loved. We can’t recognize the obvious — that we make ourselves complete — because we have rejected ourselves outright from birth.

Later I snapped out of it and I was left with the emotional wreckage that my mini-episode wrought in my mind. Over the next few days, though, I realized that I was sick of being subject to my emotions’ whims. I want to be able to stand on top of it rather than be buried by it.

I like to see a 4’s true self as a blind spot: we can’t see our true selves so we try to find it elsewhere. The other day I was reading some more on the enneagram and I realized that I needed to stop. These profiles were not going to help me find the answer. Reading pages that describe the type 4 is another way I engage in escapism and rejection of myself. I subconsciously think to myself, “this page will tell me who I am.” I am looking outwardly for who I am, when I need to look inwardly. I have the tools within me to stop this rejection. I need to take control. It’s all in my mind.

In a similar way, even though I love to pretend to be someone else for a few hours, I can’t use cosplay as a way to be an idealized form of me. Emulating others is lazy, inauthentic (a source of 4 shame), and ultimately doesn’t solve the problem. The only way for a 4 to find peace, in my opinion, is to look at his or herself in the psychological mirror and honestly examine each strength and weakeness. We don’t become strong by emulating a fictional character, and our flaws don’t disappear by donning a costume. It’s just another way I fill this hole of longing in my heart. I want to be accepted for who I am, and I think a lot of people in the cosplay community turn to it because it’s populated with others who also want to be accepted by a society, no matter how niche or small it is. The sad part is that the only person who can really accept me 100% is me. No person on earth accepts another person 100%.

It’s important to not feel like any one hobby fulfills us, no matter how fun or dynamic it is. No matter how much work it takes, or how much money it costs, or how much recognition we gain. The emotional highs associated with cosplay are fleeting. When I take my costume off I am still the same person I was when I put it on and I want to be the best version of myself in the mirror. It’s important to be happy with who I am when I’m alone in my room in front of my computer, not just when pretending to be someone else.

Are you a enneagram type 4 and struggle with self-identity? Leave a comment >

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