When Envy is in Your Personality DNA

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The chief barrier to happiness is envy.
- Frank Tyger

I don’t think I’ve met a single person who hasn’t had envious thoughts or feelings. But for me? I’ve dealt with the weight of envy and shame my entire life. It’s manifested and morphed into different layers over the years, but it has remained a constant shadow.

I’ve always wondered why this is so. Why I seem more prone to envious thoughts than others… especially when I know it’s illogical to have those thoughts. Why do I always feel like I’m missing some essential part of myself? Why do I think I need to strive for more, more, more? Why am I filled with a dark foreboding sense of envy when I browse Facebook or Instagram?

To be clear, this is not the average jealousy I’m talking about. This is more like a deep, intangible yearning for something bigger than myself. For example, I deeply envy those who know their purpose in life. Those who find meaning and happiness in ordinary things. Those who are complacent with a “good enough” life. No matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to dispose of that heavy kind of envy.

What changed?

I was introduced to the Enneagram. I love personality tests and I think they’re a great springboard for self-awareness and improvement but there has never been a personality test that has shocked me to my core and filled me with so much relief and sadness that I openly wept about it.

How my Enneagram type is related to envy

I took the test 3 times just to be sure but every time I got the same result:


The report generated is 45-pages long and is extremely detailed, but for the purposes of this article, I want to highlight the core characteristics of an Enneagram 4:


My first reaction when I read my 45-page report of my Enneagram result?

Holy shit.

The report explained SO much of my life choices and personality traits that I wondered if it was based on ME. It explains so much of why I tend to go to those deeply envious and shameful thoughts. It explains why I have always felt like I was “different” or “unique.” It explains why I’ve spent most of my life searching for purpose or meaning in my life. It also explains why my self-awareness and attunement of others helps me empathize with others.

You may have heard about the Enneagram as it’s becoming trendy but it’s actually an ancient personality type tool that has been rediscovered and examined within the lens of our societal advances.

I want to be clear here: I don’t think the enneagram or any of the personality tests I’ve taken are perfect or 100% accurate. I don’t think they are the only thing we should rely on when it comes to our life or choices. But, I think it’s a great gateway to exploring personality tendencies and what could be driving thoughts and decisions. Basically, I look at it as a tool to help me understand myself and explore my own growth.

So what do you do when you find out envy has been a visceral part of your personality DNA your entire life?

Envy has been a constant battle in my life. At times, it has felt like a prison. But I see now that it’s a prison of my own making. The Enneagram test has opened my eyes to my weaknesses, my faults, and more so, how I can start to address those issues and change. I believe when we identify weaknesses within ourselves, we have a chance to overcome them.

That’s why I’m grateful to the Enneagram test. That’s why my therapist and I have regular conversations about envy and how it plays a part in my life and what I can do to combat it. But mostly, the greatest gift the Enneagram gave me is an understanding that my envy doesn’t stem from wanting what others have… it stems from the grief and shame in my own heart.

I can’t fix envy with a vulnerable Medium post. I can’t fix envy by doing more, being more, or getting more. I can only fix envy by looking into my heart and dismantling the shame and grief, piece by piece. Fixing envy is like gluing a broken vase back together. It’s tedious, it requires extreme patience and attention to detail. It requires the desire to want it to be whole again.

In conclusion, I don’t think the Enneagram will solve world peace or end hunger or save lives. But I think it helps people understand themselves a little bit better and admit when a misunderstood part of themselves is ready to be healed.

Envy may be part of who I am, but it doesn’t have to be part of who I’m becoming.