There’s a term for people who are overly-introspective: navel-gazing. It’s not a complimentary term, either—we use it in a derisive way, mocking anyone who displays too much self-awareness as a person who looks at themself rather than looking outward at the world. Most of us internalize this message starting at a young age; our parents or teachers scold us for getting lost in reverie and we quickly learn to fill idle time with social media, hobbies, and TV shows. We feel the need to always be doing because simply spending time with our inner thoughts is dismissed as unproductive and egotistical.
Because of this, we’ve lost the distinction between self-awareness and self-absorption. This can be especially detrimental for creatives.
Research suggests that without self-awareness, we’re incapable of creative accomplishments. Other research indicates that people who self-observe more frequently are significantly more innovative than people who self-observe less frequently.
The message here is that self-awareness is a legitimate means of accessing creativity, but many of us lose the ability to be self-aware because we’re afraid to take the time to contemplate who we are and what we value. I have a secret for you though—the Enneagram can help set the stage for self-discovery, giving you the tools you need to unleash your creative talent.
Self-Awareness and Creativity
Both self-awareness and creativity are basic human needs. Self-awareness allows us to know ourselves better, and creativity allows us to express the truth of who we are.
Most people think we’re self-aware—we all know our likes and dislikes and the broad strokes of our own personalities. Yet I don’t think many people realize how unaware of ourselves we really are.
Ouspensky, a student of Gurdjieff, once said in a lecture that all people are machines, but we’re machines that can discover our mechanicalness and find ways to cease being machines. In a sense, I think this is the work of self-awareness—to spill the tea of our mechanical patterns to ourselves.
Without being grounded in a sense of self, our creativity can often feel directionless. We second-guess ourselves; we don’t know where to start. We lack the confidence to express ourselves and nothing we do feels authentic because we don’t even know what it means to be authentic when we don’t have that baseline of self-awareness.
In the hustle of life and getting out the door, we forget ourselves, we deceive ourselves, and therefore we sabotage ourselves. If we’re striving for self-awareness, we have to examine these ways in which we are actually pretty unaware:
We Forget Ourselves
To remember yourself is to be in touch with the organic intelligence of you—and this is where true creativity comes from.
The remedy to self-forgetting is to be present physically, emotionally, and mentally to the true you, not the imaginary you (let’s call this part your, get this, personality). Slow down and breathe. We can momentarily pull ourselves out of autopilot mode and instead be active and deliberate. Remembering ourselves means finding the weak spot in the walls of our mechanicalness.
We Deceive Ourselves
Self-forgetting often leads to self-deception. We find ourselves on paths that aren’t right for us, but we deceive ourselves into believing that we’re doing what we love—or, if we don’t love it, we’re at least doing something that’s serving a purpose or helping us to reach that next society-determined milestone. As creatives, we can probably list dozens of situations in which this has played out in our careers!
Instead of living with self-deception, it’s time to be honest with yourself. Find your true heart. What matters to you? What do you love? Take some time for self-observation and dig into the core of what you value and what impact you want to make on this planet. I love how Russ Hudson says that once you get to this point, you can’t use your life for bullshit reasons anymore.
We Sabotage Ourselves
When you don’t have self-awareness, you have a tendency to self-sabotage:
You procrastinate on projects because you know whatever you do won’t meet your own standards.
You turn down work for amazing clients because you don’t believe you’re good enough for them.
You fail to market yourself and your business because you’re paralyzed with fear.
Each of these is borne out of a lack of confidence—you’re sabotaging yourself because you haven’t accepted what you’re capable of. But guess what? You owe it to yourself and to others to show up with every bit of who you are.
How the Enneagram Encourages Self-Awareness
When I’m teaching an Enneagram workshop, one of the first things I tell people is that self-awareness is a lifelong journey, and we’re only striving to get .001% closer today. It’s a multi-layered process that starts with self-observation and a real honest look at our motivations, strengths, and challenges, as well as the habitual patterns that get us stuck. These patterns separate us from our purpose, the people we love, and our true essence.
Rather than using quizzes with binary answers or relying on others to tell us who we are, the Enneagram works through self-examination. This gives it the unique ability to cut through the noise and help us discover what lies at the core of ourselves; only then can we begin living and working authentically.
There are many ways to venture into this journey, but I’ve found the Enneagram to be something of a shortcut in the process of becoming more self-aware. I’ll be straight up honest—it has shown me things about myself that I would have never been able to admit before, not even to myself.
As Bea Chestnut says, “The Enneagram shows us what we don’t see of ourselves.” She’s brilliant and I couldn’t agree more.
Explore Your Enneagram Type
If you’re interested in exploring your Enneagram type, I’m releasing a new on-demand Enneagram for Creatives class and you can get $100 off when you pre-order.