This is a guest post from Connie Howard, who graciously agreed to share her perspective of being a 4.
Please check out her blog, Sorting it Out, which is full of wonderful writing, straight from the heart.
Thanks for the invitation, Joycelyn.
Being a 4, for me, is lovely, intense, and lonely all rolled into one. We go by a number of names: the Romantic, the Aesthete, the Individualist, the Artist, and the Melancholic. This last one isn’t exactly a name anyone would embrace eagerly, but it has some truth, and that truth, I’m coming to believe, may have something to do with our fast-paced, work-hard, play-hard, bottom-line oriented culture, which 4s don’t always fit into very well.
The name that perhaps resonates most strongly with me is the Aesthete. I experience thundering waves or towering ancient trees or the creamy skin of a newborn as achingly beautiful. And I’m a Romantic, yes, though I am also very, very practical and organized. I like my food saucy and spicy and served with wine in candle-lit rooms, but this does not mean I won’t enjoy plain food by fluorescent lighting too. Nor does being a romantic mean I don’t work hard.
I’m drawn to happy and sad and all things laced with magic. I prefer sad movies to frivolous or sentimental ones, though I love good comedy (which, to be truly good, must in my mind be rooted in the sad material of life.) I love to socialize, but it’s got to have an element of meaningful and substantial, and move beyond small-talk and trivia. I have, since childhood, been known to be a little earnest.
But first things first, the character flaw we are perhaps most well-known for, and the one I’ve been most frequently judged for—envy. First, envy is not at all the same as feeling insecure. This has so often been assumed I can’t stress it enough. It isn’t one tiny bit the same. I have often been envious of you, but never unsure of your loyalty to me.
Equally important, or maybe more important, envy never, ever means I don’t want you to have whatever it is I envy—it means only that I want it for myself also. Who wouldn’t envy and want your charismatic, magnanimous, agreeable personality? Who wouldn’t sometimes envy your beauty, your good health, your strength, your seemingly limitless ability to make others laugh, your energy and freedom to party and escape the darker side? Who wouldn’t sometimes feel daunted by your brilliant light? It’s a compliment, really.
And there’s also this: I don’t really dance with envy all that terribly much more than you do, not from what I can see. It seems to me that I just admit it more readily, so please don’t judge me too harshly. Besides, it’s not any worse, as character flaws and hurdles go, than the one you sometimes stumble on, just different.
I love what a wonderfully intuitive and empathetic fellow human being recently told me: Sometimes, when your pain or failure is juxtaposed with the robust health or success of another, what could possibly be more normal and human and emotionally honest than envy? This I will remember, the next time someone suggests I ought to be above envy. I sometimes do want it all, and you might too sometimes, if you’re honest.
Okay, that’s a relief, to have explained that. The rest matters less. You may think me sensitive and a little flaky, but that’s okay with me. I perceive things you may not consider perceptible, yes. Noise, coming from physical clutter. The space around you as magnetic, or impervious. Tears where there are none, tension or rage beneath a smile. Genuine empathy in your eyes before you say a word.
About you needing me to fit in when I may not—I don’t respond well to these attempted adjustments, no matter how much you’d like me to, so please don’t fall in love with me if you think you’re going to turn me into a sports fan. And please don’t fall in love with me if you’re going to tell me to dress differently either. What I wear reflects exactly what I need and how I feel. It’s just not me, to be in costume in order to please you.
So we’re not necessarily the best office-tower cubicle material as 4s, no, but we’re warm and compassionate and intuitive and empathetic. We’re good care-givers, therapists, healers. And we’re good friends and partners, if you can accept that we can’t and don’t want to be in this world exactly as you are.
As to those intense feelings we sometimes have that might lead you to believe we’re being dramatic—I’m actually usually pretty stoic about my pain. But ironically, whether I’m being stoic or wearing my pain on my sleeve, my pain can be a problem for you.
If I wear it on my sleeve, it is often viewed as attention-seeking, and as a choice to hold on to the Awful Thing of many months ago, to which I say this: You may not be as conscious of it as I am, but you’re still sad too, about your own Awful Thing. I see it in how hard you try to shop and party and work and cheer and pray it into oblivion. I’m just more aware of the currents beneath the surface.
Ironically though, if I’m stoic about my pain, you may conclude I no longer have any, and then expect too much of me, which will irritate me immensely when the facts are shouting otherwise.
I am truly sorry about the dark clouds of failure and shame that occasionally blow in; this is perhaps the darkest part of my shadow. I can see how these would be very difficult for those with front-row seats to witness, and you are a saint for not judging me during those times. For this I love you immensely and will forever be loyal.
Thank you so much for writing this, Connie. It gives me greater insight into 4s I’ve known, including my partner. I think he would have identified with your very first statement (“lovely, intense, and lonely”). It’s good to hear what someone else’s experience is like, since our experience of someone else is always filtered through who we are. I really appreciate the connection. 🙂
Thanks for giving me the opportunity, and for being interested. It’s infinitely more common to superimpose our perceptions and conclusions onto the experience of others, rather than to stop and really listen to what they have to say. If I ever decide to venture into a bit of Enneagram blogging, that’s exactly what I’ll do–invite the voices of others to tell the rest of us what it’s like from their perch, and I’ll start with you. 🙂
And I’ll be more than happy to oblige. 🙂