Two weeks ago I wrote a column about my exploration of the Enneagram and what it has meant to me. My husband (bless him) will listen to me talk about the nine types and everything I've learned for much longer than he is interested. But, it has been helpful to have a few family and friends who are just as enthusiastic about the Enneagram as I am. One of those friends, Liz Mace, has been vital in this journey. We will read books and listen to the same podcasts about each other's types and then talk through every detail for hours. We have both been fascinated learning more about ourselves and diving deeper into our ten-year friendship. (Fun fact, we once spent a wonderful year living in a studio apartment together in downtown Denver, so it amazes me that we still have so much to learn about each other.) I figured what better way to continue the Enneagram conversation than to ask Liz questions about her enneagram journey. I hope you enjoy getting to learn more about another enneagram type and the amazing person and friend that is Liz Mace.
Megan McLeod Trawick: When did you first take the enneagram?
Liz Mace: I took the test for the first time in fall of 2019. I was very clearly a type 7 (aka “the enthusiast”). I really enjoyed reading all the good things about type 7, but I wasn’t interested in digging deeper or learning about any so-called “fears.”
In the past few months, with the encouragement of some awesome friends (looking at you, Megan), I’ve decided to push past that discomfort. It’s been difficult to discover parts of me that could use some growth, but that discovery is where the good stuff is. A better understanding of myself is the only way to create a path to a better understanding of others, and that is where the magic is.
MMT: Tell me the characteristics of type 7 that you most identify with.
LM: Well, of course I would like to lead with the fun ones. I am enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous, adventurous, loud, always moving, positive, idealistic, hopeful, bold, confident, empathetic, resilient, passionate, and I see the world with rose-colored glasses (sometimes to a fault).
I am always thinking about the next adventure, but I am not a great planner. I have big ideas, but sometimes my follow through isn’t the best. I am restless. I can be a bit (a lot) dramatic. I like to be the center of attention. I am an overthinker. I am scatterbrained, much like this list. I hate feeling tied down to anything. I am not great at commitment. I happy cry a lot. I crave new adventures. I am a master procrastinator. I am a “yes” woman. I love my friends and family so much and would do anything for them. As you know from living in a tiny studio apartment with me for a year, I am disorganized, messy, and often put off responsibilities because I just want to do what makes me happy in that moment. And, as my mom has often said, only Megan could’ve put up with that. I will take this moment to say thanks again for being the best.
Finally, I always want everyone to have a good time. I want everyone to get the most out of every experience and I want every experience to be incredible and every day to be the best day ever. Is that too much to ask?
MMT: What has it been like to explore enneagram and understand yourself and others more deeply?
LM: Exploring it with you has made it so much more meaningful!
One of the best things I have listened to about the enneagram was from Chichi Agorom. She explains that we are not our enneagram types, but rather the types are the walls and the armor we have built in order to navigate the world. We will never truly understand how others feel and how they internalize certain emotions, but we can sure try to be more empathetic, compassionate and learn how we can support and love everyone in the way that they most need it. I think exploring the enneagram has given me tools to use to better connect with others.
I have also allowed myself to recognize that being “me” doesn’t mean that I have to always be functioning at the high energy level I so often do. I recognize that some days that energy level might be different, and that doesn’t make me any less “me.” A joyful and energetic person is not a person free of all other emotions, but a truly joyful person has let herself feel all the feelings, therefore the joy can shine through.
MMT: What has been the most challenging to learn?
LM: In general, I think it is challenging to learn how our actions and inactions can sometimes negatively affect the people around us.
I have always recognized in myself my constant need for more and the need to get the most out of life and every moment. But I have recently been learning more about how my inability to manage expectations can really be asking a lot of others. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself and others to make everything wonderful. That is a big burden to bear. And if I am always thinking of the future and how I can make everything better, nothing will ever be good enough. My excitement for the next big adventure often leads to a lack of presence in the moment, and I want to be grateful in every moment.
I always felt that to get the most out of life I needed to be moving, making the most of every minute, never being still, but I think this lack of moments of stillness can actually keep me from living a truly full life. I crave new and exciting experiences and a full life. But a full life means experiencing the highs and lows and the mundane in between. I cannot fully appreciate the joy without experiencing the pain that often comes with it.
MMT: What was the most surprising about type 7 to you?
LM: Sevens are the only enneagram number that don’t have a natural connection to their own heart. I pride myself on my big heart, but until recently never really thought about what it really meant to look inward rather than being drawn to other people’s hearts. I think I often look externally for love and happiness, and emotional intelligence is not my strong suit. I think it surprised me how disconnected I can be to my own heart, which sounds really deep and scary, but I don’t think it is! I think I have a lot to learn from you and your deep connection to your heart and others.
MMT: How has the enneagram made you think differently about your relationships?
LM: I have learned to recognize that I pull back in relationships when things get hard. My tendency is to avoid hard conversations and feelings, and this avoidance has definitely not helped relationships in the past. I am a good listener, but not so great at helping people process emotions.
I think learning that part of the armor that I put up can often unintentionally hurt people or push people away has changed how I show up in my relationships. With you, for instance. When I am sad or anxious, I either push these feelings away and throw myself a dance party, or I shut down and don’t talk to anyone. When I shut down, I don’t answer my phone or call my friends or family. I have often felt that sadness is something that I do not want to burden others with. When I started reading more about 2s (Megan is a type 2), I began understanding how this can often be hurtful to you.
My sister is a 4, and she is beautifully connected to her emotions and the emotions of those around her. I have gotten frustrated with her, and others, in the past when they are not at the same energy level as me. This is not fair. That frustration I think in some ways stems from my desire for everything to be ok all the time. In reality, things are not always going to be sunshine and rainbows and giving people space to process emotions is important.
MMT: What is one change you have made in your life after learning about the enneagram?
LM: I think the best way for me to show up for others is when I fully show up for myself. And for me, fully showing up for myself means giving myself permission to feel my feelings. Once I allow myself to feel my feelings, I am also allowing myself to listen to others in a more attentive and authentic way.
Lately, I have tried to add some quiet moments to my day. And I have been trying to be a better listener. When friends or family have been upset, I have been trying to not immediately find the silver lining, but instead be more in tune to what they need from me. Maybe they aren’t ready to hear that it’s all good, maybe they just need me to be there and recognize the sadness with them.
I don’t want to end with the last sentence having the word sadness in it, so I am just going to say something else. Can I say something else? I am so grateful for the patience and love that you have shown me throughout our 10-year friendship. Feelings are hard. Growth is hard. But I think the love and compassion that you continue to show me, and others is so powerful. More powerful than you know.