What self-care looks like for me right now

What self-care looks like for me right now

I’m always grateful for those flashes of insight that help me understand a familiar issue in a new way. Sometimes re-framing the problem makes the solution—or at least the next step—so much clearer.

That happened to me recently: I came across one paragraph in a new-to-me book that articulated something I’d been struggling with for years, but had never been able to put my finger.

The book was The Essential Enneagram. I’ve known for years that I’m a 9: even though I’ve never completely identified with much of the description, it fits me better than any of the other types do.

According to the enneagram, each of the 9 types has a core struggle: avarice, or envy, or lust, or, in my case as a 9, sloth. I’ve never much identified with this description. I may be many things, but lazy I’m not.

I’ve read a lot of enneagram books, and wasn’t really expecting to discover much in the way of new information in this one. But then I stumbled upon this paragraph, and realized I’d been buying into one of the common myths about my type. It said, “People often think of Nines as lazy, slow, unproductive, and lacking in leadership and effectiveness. In fact, Nines’ inertia is simply toward themselves as they put their attention and energy into others’ opinions and agendas.” [Emphasis added, because yikes—that nails it.]

This immediately made so much sense to me. I’m a hard worker, but I am way too relaxed (er, lazy) in minding my own limits and boundaries. It’s too easy for me to get pulled in every direction by everyone else’s wants, wishes, and priorities. My inclination as a 9 is to keep the peace (which is why this type is often called the “peacemaker” or “mediator”) but at too high a price.

While it’s good to be adaptable, nines go way beyond this. Their temptation is to blend in. Their inclination is to “melt” into others in a way that’s completely unhealthy, setting their own wants, wishes, and priorities aside in favor of someone else’s.

This was not a fun realization. As Richard Rohr is fond of saying, the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

But because I can recognize these things about myself, I can actually do something about it. That’s where the self-care part comes in.

The book has a great self-test, and descriptions of the types, and it also recommends practices—as in, literal practice exercises—for each type. We’re all inclined to go off the rails in a certain way. Because my inclination is to be lazy about my boundaries, my instructions are to ask myself: “How have all the people and things around me been pulling at and competing for my attention? How indecisive have I been? In what ways have I gone along with others’ agendas and plans? In what ways have I been sidetracked into focusing on secondary priorities or inessentials?”

Self-care looks different in different seasons. I wrote about my then-current practices almost a year ago, and while some of the same themes are there, I didn’t need the same things back then. You can see hints of minding my boundaries, but I wasn’t able to articulate that need the way I am now, like this:

Self-care right now looks like asking myself what I want.

Self-care right now looks like waiting before acting. (Or more commonly, reacting.)

Self-care right now looks like thoughtfully evaluating my own priorities.

Self-care right now looks like respecting my own self and my own boundaries.

For most of you, this probably looks like craziness: these things come easy to you. While I’m asking myself about my boundaries, you may be asking yourself how loud your inner critic has been this week. Or how often you’ve been feeling disappointed lately about what’s missing in your life. Or if you’ve been escaping the potentially painful stuff by turning your attention to the new and interesting?

These self-care steps aren’t exactly easy, not for any of us. But I’d rather know what to do for myself—even if it’s hard—than not know. Even if it makes me miserable for a little bit.

I’d love to hear in comments if you resonate with any of this, and what you find that YOU need for self-care in this season.

P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.

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29 comments

  1. Sarah Zjoy says:

    Thank you! I think you might have just described me too. I feel lazy sometimes…but then I am SO busy with everyone else’s wants…it’s my needs I am lazy with.

  2. Janine says:

    You could 100% just have been describing me right now. There’s been a lot going on in my life lately, and for once I’ve realized I actually need to stop and think about what I want and need and put that first. It was a difficult (and often guilt-ridden) conclusion to come to, but so necessary.

  3. Sarah J. says:

    I really resonate with this. We are about to embark on homeschooling and move twice between two cities in the next year. Add in the realization that we have confused accommodation for love in our 4 year old, and we’ve let some not so great habits (in our opinion- like picky eating and too much screen time) take hold. It’s been life giving for me to sit down with the practice of making a rule of life and getting back to the priorities for me, include things I want to do (that I always push to the side for other people) and what I want our day to look like at home. It’s nothing grand, and I feel lazy for saying “no” to so much, but guarded time for me and with my family are all I want to manage right now!

  4. Susan in TX says:

    So does that make you more of an Obliger in Rubin’s tendencies? I’m rereading BTB and keep falling into a mixture…

    • Anne says:

      I don’t really see myself in any of her tendencies! But no, obliger is the one thing I’m certain I’m not. I think I’m more upholder with questioner leanings.

  5. Kathleen says:

    I’m going to have to think about this! I’m a 9 too, and I have such a strong aversion to conflict that I really do think it’s my type, but like you I don’t consider myself lazy. However, I also struggle with selfishness. I feel like I think a lot about my own goals and projects and plans and comfort, and I have to make an effort to consider others above myself.

  6. Theresa says:

    I identify with this post. I am definitely not lazy with doing things, especially for others, but doing things for myself is something I am working on. Specifically, stating my needs and not feeling bad about my needs, and not pushing my needs to the last on the list. This means respecting the needs of others, but also letting them know mine so they can respect mine. I was not raised to do this, but I am learning that this is healthy give and take and sets a good example for our children.

  7. Tracy says:

    Anne,
    It’s so interesting that you would write this post because I’ve been wanting to suggest to you -Please write a post on how you accomplish so much in a day. I am in awe of how much you read, your recall of books, how well you analyze literature. You must have a photograph memory! On top of all that you read, you manage your podcast and other social media, AND you are raising four kids and managing a household! Honestly, “sloth” should never appear near your name. I’ve not heard of the personality book you mentioned, but understand the emerita towards taking care of oneself. So very common for women and especially moms to put ourselves last. I appreciate you bringing all these wonderful insights regarding self care into discussion. As a parenting teacher, I’m constantly discussing with my moms how important it is to take care of ourselves while mothering. Its crucial we model this for our children, especially for our daughters. I would still love to read an account of your day. Do you sleep?

    • Anne says:

      I need 8 hours of sleep a night (and wish I didn’t!). I have a lot of help, and there’s plenty of stuff I don’t do, I promise. 🙂

  8. Jan Hassler says:

    Thanks for this. I am also a 9 and I resonated with this post. It also gave me some insight into why I tend to fight my husband when he merely suggests what entree we might split at a restaurant! 🙂

  9. Jennifer N. says:

    How interesting! I can see some “9” in me, as well… but I really need to look into this Enneagram concept further before I can say for sure; I have never heard of this.

  10. self-care for me means a ‘go to sleep’ alarm set for 10 PM. I’m an extreme INFP… so I will stay awake past my bedtime to get alone time- but it is just not working… I am trying to wake up earlier to get my alone time in in a healthier way

  11. Lisa Zahn says:

    Thank you for posting about this. I too am a 9, and struggle with feeling I’m lazy while at the same time wearing myself out tending to everyone else’s needs at home and in my job as a freelance editor. I don’t even know I’m not keeping healthy boundaries, and sometimes don’t even know how I’m feeling. I find I really have to check in with myself often to discover a) how I’m feeling and b) what I need. Self care doesn’t come naturally to me–to the point where I sometimes forget even basic needs like showering (have gotten better at that one since starting an evening shower routine! LOL–I’m not “dirty” per se but need that shower as time for myself to decompress).

  12. Anna says:

    I bought this book when it was on sale on Kindle, and it’s on my “short list” of non-fiction books to read. I think I’m going to move it to the top now! I’m curious to see what my type is.
    I can relate to so much of what you shared here- wanting to blend and please others. I have learned to do a bit better as I’ve gotten older. One trick I use sometimes is thinking about advice I would give to a friend in the same situation. Sometimes, that makes it easier to think objectively.

  13. Laura says:

    I took the Enneagram almost two years ago for the first time (had never heard of it before then!), and my discovery that I, too, am a Nine resonated more strongly with me than any other personality test I had ever taken. I could not stop thinking about it and reading over my results. I do struggle with laziness which, as a SAHM, definitely takes its toll on my household. But some of the other questions you posted above resonated with me, too. So glad you shared. Adding this book to my TBR list.

    • Anne says:

      The self-test section on The Essential Enneagram is much longer and more detailed, so if you’re not sure on your type I think it would be a great place to start. Rohr is able to dedicate more space to breaking down each individual type, and he focuses heavily on spiritual implications.

  14. melissa says:

    this post is golden (for me). thanks for sharing. My inclination is to be lazy about my boundaries too. It’s so much easier to go with the flow of catering towards others all the time and in unhealthy ways, rather than voicing my needs, ambitions, etc. But if I always do this, I know I will suffer and possibly become resentful too. I am an info “peacemaker/mediator” type. I haven’t learned much about enneagram. sounds interesting.
    Love your blog and your insight!!!

  15. Lisa notes says:

    I recently read The Wisdom of the Enneagram (I’m a 1, I think) and found it so intriguing. Self-care for me comes in the form of stop watching the clock for a bit and just chill with a book.

  16. Jamie says:

    I think summer break brings this to the surface for me. It is much, much easier to go with the flow or use screen time with kids rather than be thoughtful and verbal with needs like alone time to process. But I also relate to what was said above about recognizing selfishness. So that’s…confusing. I think one way that combo plays out is the temptation to blame others for wanting my time rather than look inward to ways I wasn’t voicing my needs or boundaries. I would just prefer others need or want less than take the energy to proactively set limits on what I want to give. I recognize that when I’ve been more diligent in protecting what needs protected, I’m much less likely to let things build and explode in anger at others. Thanks for always tackling topics women can relate to.

  17. Brandy says:

    I have never heard of these classifications. I need to go look now. I relate so much to this and to a couple of your posters, esp. Sarah J. and Lisa Zahn. You think nobody else struggles so much with this. I just told a friend on the phone today that I just don’t want anyone upset in my family. It’s hard to live by my principles with the kids, b/c it’s not what “they” want, etc. It’s easier to go along, and then stay awake all night worrying about it. I know what I need to do, I think, but I find it reallllllly hard to do it in the face of opposition. It feels selfish. And I think that is hard for women.

  18. Angie says:

    Oh, yikes! I’ve been putting off that other personality test (where you end up with four letters) for years because it was so insightful for you and Dianna (the Kennedy adventures) and it was just something else to add to the stack of unread self-help books and ton of downloaded versions I’ve been avoiding. Why? Because I’m disabled and don’t have the energy to do stuff for me AND my family. I have one child left at home and that’s where my energy goes every single day. But maybe it’s time for me to re-evaluate that since he’s now afraid to go away to college because he’s worried about ME. This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart!!

  19. Noreen says:

    I can totally relate to this. I haven’t read the book but have been interested in the enneagram for a while (I am totally an INFJ btw). I started to realize in the last few years that I spent a lot of time conceding what I wanted for what others wanted under the guise that I was “easygoing” and that it was “no big deal”, all in attempts to keep the peace. Then later I would feel resentful, unheard & unknown or in the worst cases what I call the “ultimate ick” which is just a major implosion inside of yuck. I still have far to go but I am definitely more aware of myself and when I have not been true to me. Unfortunately it has caused me to re-evaluate and let go of some friendships that were one-sided and not healthy for me. There have been growing pains for sure and many tears but on the other side I know I am doing what’s best for me.

  20. Julie says:

    This is fascinating, thanks for sharing. I’m sure you’ve read it, but the book Boundaries was revolutionary for me in terms of seeing how I’m likely to “melt into” to relationships (I found I was good at maintaining boundaries in some relationships; very poor in others, and I’d been blind to that), and learn how to relate to people (and myself!) in a more healthy way.

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