Enneagram Type 4: Description and Characteristics
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An Enneagram personality type describes how individuals interpret the world around them, manage their emotions and respond to situations.
Under the Enneagram system, there are nine personality types:
- Type 1: The Perfectionist – Type 1s follow the rules and do everything correctly. They fear not being perfect and are therefore strict with themselves.
- Type 2: The Giver – Type 2s desire to be liked and fear being unloved. They go out of their way to find ways to help people.
- Type 3: The Achiever – A Type 3’s goal is to become successful and admired. They are very concerned with their public image and fear not being valued.
- Type 4: The Individualist – Type 4s fear that they are flawed and unlovable. They are motivated by being true to themselves and their emotions.
- Type 5: The Investigator – Type 5s value knowledge and understanding. Their fear is being overwhelmed by their or others' needs.
- Type 6: The Skeptic – Type 6s desire precaution, safety and security. Their fear is being unprepared or unable to defend themselves.
- Type 7: The Enthusiast – Type 7s want to have as much fun as possible and fear extreme emotions, such as sadness or loneliness.
- Type 8: The Challenger – Type 8s are strong, powerful and stand up for what they believe in. They fear being powerless, so they are controlling by nature.
- Type 9: The Peacemaker – Type 9s usually go with the flow and fear that they will push people away if they prioritize their own needs.
These personality types are further categorized as heart, head or body types:
- Heart types (2, 3 and 4) depend on emotional intelligence to understand themselves and connect with others.
- Head types (5, 6 and 7) use intellectual intelligence to understand and connect with the world around them.
- Body types (8, 9 and 1) focus more on intuition or gut feelings.
According to the nine-pointed diagram, each personality relates to the other.
Say, for example, you are Type 7. As you grow, learn and develop, you could become either Type 6 or Type 8. These are referred to as 'wing personalities'.
The personality types can also be connected in a triangle.
The theory is that Type 6 (in this example) is your childhood or old personality. As you grow up and experience the world, you move to either Type 9 or Type 3.
A specific core belief defines each personality type. This belief influences your fears, motivations and perspectives.
Understanding these elements helps us see how we react to situations. This, in turn, enables us to identify areas where we can grow and develop – both personally and professionally.
It also allows us to understand others and how they see the world.
When applied to the workplace, understanding everyone's Enneagram personality types will allow for:
- A more cohesive and understanding workplace
- Better distribution of tasks
- More valuable career planning
- More specific feedback and development plans
The Enneagram Type 4 personality is labelled The Individualist or The Creative.
Above all, they value being different or special and make up around 11% of the population. Type 4s are typically creative and are known for having unique perspectives.
Their biggest fear is that because they are so different, others will not see them for who they truly are, thus making it difficult to fully connect.
Their key personality traits are:
- Desire to discover and understand who they are – Type 4s are interested in knowing their limits and how much they can achieve.
- Self-reflective – They tend to look inwards, using past experiences to fuel their creative projects.
- Quirky – As people with unique perspectives, they often have a quirky dress sense.
- Endearing – Because they have such a unique perspective and are creative, others enjoy being around them.
- Melancholic – As Type 4s strive to be better and are very honest with themselves, they can often fall into sadness or depression if their goals are not met.
- Strong sense of identity – Regardless of the outcome, Enneagram Type 4s will always be very honest with themselves about who they are and what they believe in.
- Compassionate – As complex beings, Type 4s have a lot of empathy and compassion for those around them. They are high in emotional intelligence and often wish the same understanding would be given to them.
- Temperamental – Being a creative person comes with a range of emotions. This causes them to be temperamental, as any slight inconvenience may make them moody.
- Expressive – As a creative person, Type 4s are very expressive and show this through their work, emotions and conversations.
- Sensitive – Because Enneagram Type 4s often feel misunderstood and unliked, they can be sensitive and easily hurt.
They are motivated by:
- Building relationships and connections
- Taking time to reconnect with themselves
- Expressing themselves through creative outlets
- Being accepted and valued for who they are
They are often stressed by:
- Meaningless conversations and small talk
- Large groups of unfamiliar people
- Absence of personal creativity
A healthy Type 4 creates thought-provoking, groundbreaking works. They typically undergo metamorphosis through self-acceptance and emerge strong and willing to share their genius.
Average Type 4s have creative outlets and often connect with like-minded people in their community. They are emotionally intense, self-absorbed and sensitive to criticism. Average Enneagram Type 4s often seek external validation.
Unhealthy Type 4s are fragile and diagnosed as depressed. In extreme cases, they spiral out of control, looking for emotional outlets through drugs and alcohol. They sometimes lose all grasp of reality and will try to erase themselves from society.
Famous type 4s include:
- Jackie Kennedy
- Edgar Allen Poe
- Leonard Cohen
- Marlon Brando
- Jeremy Irons
- Kate Winslet
In the working environment, Type 4s are inspired when:
- They are asked to express their feelings
- Their colleagues, especially management, take the time to get to know them
- Their colleagues are open-minded and genuine
- Their managers and bosses understand their vision
They are demotivated when:
- There is no room for creativity
- They are criticized
- Their peers are distant and uninterested
- Managers and bosses don't take them seriously
The Individualist has many strengths and weaknesses.
Their main strengths are:
Not many people are able or willing to connect with their emotions – especially the older generations.
Type 4s excel at understanding what they are feeling and why.
They might not do anything about it, but at least they know where the emotions come from and what their triggers are.
Having emotional intelligence and being empathetic are skills most employees look for in today's workplace.
Being empathetic means you can see when someone is having a bad day or is feeling stressed, and you have the desire to do something about it.
You notice when someone isn't feeling 100%, and rather than ignore the situation, you prefer to help.
Just like emotional intelligence, self-awareness is a rare but desired skill.
To grow and develop as a person, you first need to identify your shortfalls, why you have them and what you can do to improve.
Someone who is unable or unwilling to accept that they have any weaknesses or areas of improvement will never be able to grow.
This means that Type 4s are open to feedback and development, so long as it doesn't sound critical.
Being creative is a wonderful skill. Creativity gives the world music, art, movies, plays and books. It is also creativity that develops innovative products and technologies.
Without creativity, the world would be a very dull place.
While there are negative traits associated with creativity, overall, it is a desired and valuable skill to have.
Creativity is required in all industries and across all roles, especially where innovation and pioneering products or services are integral to company success.
As Type 4s are self-aware and believe in being their true selves, they will always show their authentic thoughts and feelings – even if it hurts someone's feelings.
There are negatives and weaknesses to all personality traits. For the Enneagram test Type 4, the weaknesses are:
When 4s experience tough times, they often turn inwards and close themselves off from the world. This can also lead to depression and anxiety.
In the workplace, this can cause a drop in the quantity and quality of their work.
Whether it be a certain talent or something materialistic, the Individualist can sometimes become fixated on the things they don't have.
This isn't to say they aren't grateful for things they do have. But as they are always self-reflecting, what they lack can seem like a barrier to their goals.
For employees, this can be a difficult trait to manage. In the eyes of Type 4, there will always be someone who performs better or has a better role/task/salary/image.
As a person who is always reflecting and trying to be the best version of themselves, Type 4s can often come across as self-absorbed.
Sometimes, their self-reflection can take over, and they do become rather obsessed with themselves, their goals and their experiences.
For those Type 4s with an unhealthy mindset, this self-indulgence is justifiable to compensate for what they don't have.
When faced with troubling or difficult situations, Type 4s may not react calmly or be level-headed – especially if it's a scenario they haven't encountered before.
In the workplace, this could look like:
- Not accepting feedback
- Panicking when things go wrong
- Panicking in an emergency
- Unable to finish a presentation
Type 4s tend to believe that they are their feelings.
However, it is important to remind them that feelings represent how someone feels at that moment and are not a permanent state of mind.
Type 4s often procrastinate by waiting to be ‘in the right mood’. Encourage Enneagram Type 4s to commit to being productive and doing things each day that serve their purpose.
They are happiest when working and achieving their true potential, as it allows them to discover themselves and their talents.
Enforce the belief that sitting and waiting for the mood to strike you will do nothing for your self-development other than hold you back.
Routine, self-management and good habits are proven to enhance people's lives, and this is especially true for the Creative.
- Going to sleep at the same time every night
- Exercising daily
- Working regularly
- Eating healthily
Try to avoid alcohol, drugs, bad sleep habits and unhealthy foods.
Type 4s can lose so much time by having conversations with themselves or getting lost in fantasies.
While the intention is to act on these fantasies, that never happens because you become too consumed.
Negative or overly romantic fantasies and conversations also have a debilitating effect because they make reality seem worse than it really is.
Encourage Type 4s to face reality by talking about how they are feeling and what can be done to change those emotions.
As Type 4s are prone to negative self-beliefs, positive affirmations help extinguish those thoughts and reaffirm a more positive mindset and self-image.
Begin with simple affirmations such as:
- I am loved
- I am creative
- I am valued
- My work is of a high standard
- I am a healthy and happy person
How do colleagues and friends see them? Get Type 4s to focus on their accomplishments and positive traits that friends/colleagues may have mentioned in the past.
It is very easy for them to get caught up in their emotions, so encourage them to take a step back and consider how others might view them.
Enneagram Type 4s pride themselves on being individual, but that can sometimes get lonely.
Ask them to consider what things they have in common with the people around them. This will allow them to create bonds and develop friendships.
Their to-do list and goals may make them feel overwhelmed. Break everything down into super small, achievable and manageable steps.
When setting goals, encourage them to use the SMART goal formula to help focus.
Type 4s are wonderful at self-reflection but often turn away from constructive feedback. During a feedback session, reiterate that negative feedback is not a personal attack. It is a way for them to better themselves, and the person delivering the feedback is often rooting for their success.
Encourage them to seek and appreciate both positive and negative feedback.
Type 4s are known as ‘the individualist’. They are self-aware and have a strong introspective knowledge of emotions and feelings. Type 4s prioritize their sense of self, and they can make career and relationship choices that are not necessarily seen as productive by other people. Their biggest fear is the suppression of their own identity.
Because of their internal focus, type 4s are sometimes framed as being narcissistic. However, this is sometimes a misunderstanding as narcissism would imply a grandiose sense of self. Type 4s can be self-loathing and ridden with guilt. They may feel existential challenges greater than the other enneagram types.
Enneagram 4's focus is the projection of themselves upon their work. This means they are very good writers, artists, musicians and rhetoricians. Any field that requires a strong degree of creativity attracts the Enneagram type because of their basic desires of feeling emotionally and intellectually compatible with their work.
Type 4s are not always easy-going and can often get lost in their own head. But their capacity to think and feel deeply can be beneficial to those around them.
Their unique perspective and way of thinking make them interesting people if they are willing to open themselves up.
While they often feel isolated and misunderstood, finding connections with their colleagues or friends will help deepen relationships and help others to understand them better.