Author and artist Morgan Harper Nichols shares how understanding her identity as an Enneagram Five has helped her embrace herself and connect with others.
When I first discovered the Enneagram, I wanted to be any type but a Five. After reading a few descriptions of the Five, it felt like everything I was reading applied to my life. . . . and that was the problem. I could feel Fiveness reaching up from the page to embrace me, but I wasn’t ready to embrace it in return. I wasn’t ready to be seen in this way.
The main reason why I was reluctant to embrace Fiveness was because people in my community were beginning to discover and discuss their types and no one I knew was a Five. Throughout my life, I had often felt like an outsider, and for once, I just wanted to be like everyone else. I was incredibly intrigued by the Enneagram, but I didn’t like this idea of being the lone Five off in the corner somewhere.
Despite these frustrations, I still wanted to know more. I began purchasing books about the Enneagram and reading as much as I could. As I read more about the Five, it became pretty undeniable that Fiveness applied to me. There were many moments where I felt like throwing the book across the room because the words felt too accurate. Descriptions of needing to have a good understanding before acting made me think of all the times in my life I bought yet another book to understand something more. Passages about a Five being detached from practicality made me think of all the dreams and plans stuck in the confines of my journal for no one to see but me. However, the more I read, other descriptions of the Five hit close to home, too. While I struggled with the words like “detached” and “reclusive,” I also saw other words. Words like “observer” and “visionary.” “Observer” made me think about the times where someone confided me and I remained non-judgmental and also helpful, because I was able to observe the situation as an outsider. “Visionary” recalled childhood memories where I frequently had detailed and vivid dreams that I would turn into stories. Stories that I still hold on to and reference today.
Looking at both the unhealthy and healthy aspects of Fiveness together helped me realize something: the reason why it was hard to embrace Fiveness was because this was the description of a person I hadn’t been embracing. I had become an observer of everything in the world except for myself. As a kid, I loved to lift up rocks and take a peak at all of the curious little creatures hidden beneath. . . . and this is what the Enneagram did to me. It was showing me all of the parts I hadn’t been paying attention to about myself because I was so used to focusing on observing and learning about everything else.
One of the misconceptions about Fives is that we always want to be alone. But while we are prone to enjoy our time alone, it doesn’t mean that we don’t seek community and connection with others. At the time of life when I discovered the Enneagram, I was desperate for connection. I had just experienced a major career change, I was in a new (and very large) city, and I was struggling to find my place. In this time of my life, it was the Enneagram that allowed to take a loving look in the mirror and learn how to embrace who I saw for the first time, and by taking this time to connect with who I was, I would open the door to connect with others.
As I saw other people in my life embrace their type, I begin to realize that even though it would take great courage, I had to learn to do the same. One way I began challenging myself was by sharing more of my poetry and art online. I had been holding back because I often considered my creative peers to be more well-prepared at sharing their craft with the world. With live broadcasts and dynamic videos, their work was well made and well received, and I often felt that my work wasn’t quite ready yet to be shared with others. However, slowly but surely, I began to share, anyway. What kept me going in that time was that others were beginning to tell me they connected with my work. . . . including people who I knew were not Fives.
It was through this experience I believe God revealed to me that two things can happen at once: I can learn to embrace who I was made to be while simultaneously connecting with others, whether they are alike or different from me. To this day, I still know far fewer Fives than any other type. I still have moments where I feel alone in my Fiveness and find myself researching new ways to connect with others. However, learning to take a closer look at Fiveness taught me that of all the things I love to learn about, I am allowed to learn more about myself, too. And I am not restricted to only learn from the comfortable confines of my home office or perusing the shelves of my local bookstore. I will also learn by courageously choosing to show up with what I have and who I am, even before I feel like I’m ready.
I will continue to learn that by choosing to be present despite my questions, I am learning to embrace myself—and also embrace connection with others and whatever else God leads me to discover in this life.
About the Author
Morgan Harper Nichols is a writer, a poet, and an artist with a popular Instagram feed (@morganharpernichols) and podcast, The Morgan Harper Nichols Show. She is also the author of Forty Days on Being a Five and All Along You Were Blooming. Morgan has performed as a vocalist on several Grammy Award–nominated projects. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.