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Love yourself...not your Self Concept!

Love Yourself…Not your Self Concept!

By: Roxanne Harrison

Recently I was in a session (online of course) with one of my Enneagram teachers Russ Hudson and he made reference to loving yourself, not your self-concept. It was a comment made in passing, but it grabbed my attention! As you embark on any type of self-exploration, it’s a distinction worth digging into a bit. What does it mean to love our true self versus loving our self-concept?

In the challenge I offered in the Journey Guide, I asked each of you to answer a few questions using descriptive adjectives. These adjectives can point you in the direction of the self-concept you currently hold. We all have deeply held beliefs around what we think we should be, what we don’t want to be, and how we would like to be perceived by others. The Enneagram gives us the gift of looking past our conceptualized self and allows us to look at the actual mechanisms and systems that are driving our behavior. The Enneagram is not a tool for reinforcing the self-concept; it’s a tool that allows us to return back to our true self.

When we talk about each Enneagram type, Types 1-9, it’s good to understand there are a variety of components that make up each type structure. Let’s take a look at each component. Please keep in mind I am not a psychologist, so these are not meant to be scientific definitions!

Personality: Is measurable such as introversion/extroversion or sociability/irritability and is focused on the patterns of behaviors and characteristics that help predict and explain a person’s behavior. The Ego is part of the personality.

Character Structure: This is a bit more subjective and includes morality, ethics, and integrity.

Archetype: Meta patterns of human behavior identified by the name of each type such as Peacemaker, Challenger or Reformist.

Neurobiology: We are all born with a set of cells that make up the nervous system. The way these cells are organized in our nervous system influences how we process information and behave. Scientists have found some people have more mirror neurons and other people have a more highly alert nervous system.

Essential Self: The essential self is sometimes referred to as soul, higher self, consciousness or presence with no boundaries.

Often we reinforce our self-concept by setting goals or acting in ways that support our self-concept. For instance as a Type 8, I would prefer if people saw me as someone who can “make things happen”. And to reinforce this belief I may take on leadership roles or neglect taking care of myself so I can “get it done”! But that isn’t really the work I needed to be doing. What I needed to focus on was less of pushing to make things happen and more allowing and receptivity as things did happen. And this is the tricky part of self-work. What we need to focus on is what we have ignored, or have forgotten in order to maintain our preferred self-concept.

The Enneagram can help guide us towards what will be most helpful in each of our own personal growth and transformation. It’s not a narcissistic tool to reinforce type structure. Learning our Enneagram type and having a description of each type is a great start, but it isn’t enough. The Enneagram gives us the ability to look past who we think we are, and understand the mechanisms that are driving behavior and why we neglect certain parts of ourselves. And that’s when we can start to love our true self, not just our self-concept.

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