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  • Writer's pictureAlex Rathbun

Enneagram Eight: The Challenger

Welcome to Week Eight of the Brightly Alex Enneagram Series. I'm so excited about this week's post because our guest is my very best friend! The one and only smart, strong, kind and beautiful Sarah Larson. Recognize that last name from somewhere? That's because her mom is Hanne Larson, my Type Two guest!

Enneagram Eights are nicknamed The Challenger – an Eight's basic desire is self-protection. Admittedly, I don't know a lot about Type Eights and am still learning (it's not that I don't know my best friend, but that I thought she was a Type Three for our whole friendship until recently... read question #1 for more on that). Since discovering her true Enneagram Type a few months ago, I've learned so much more about Sarah and feel like I can understand her in a new way, in addition to her learning more deeply and accurately about herself, which has been amazing to observe.

If this is your first time hearing about the Enneagram, check out this post for an overview. If you've been here for the whole series, read on to hear from Sarah!

1. When and why did you first learn about the Enneagram?

"I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about the Enneagram. I would call my dad an Enneagram fanatic. He was going to conferences on the Enneagram far before it was trendy.

"When I was younger I rolled my eyes at it and got irritated as my dad would say, “Oh it makes sense that you would act like that because of your typing…” I took a free test for the first time that I can remember when I was in college and it said I was a Three wing Two. This made a lot of sense to me as I am highly driven and can push emotions aside to get things done. Especially in the last couple years I have really lived my life through the lens of being a Three wing Two and understood myself through it.

"It was actually only a few months ago that I decided to take the paid RHETI test and WEPSS test for Enneagram typing and found that both said I was an Eight wing Seven. At first this made me so upset. How could I be so wrong? How could I have lived so much of my life through the lens of something that was untrue of me? The more I read about and looked into the Type Eight though, I found a resonance and deep sense of being known that I never had with the Type Three."

2. How has the Enneagram impacted how you see yourself?

"The Enneagram has made me feel known and has given me understanding of why I tend to do the things I wish I didn’t. Eights are in the gut triad which is totally action-oriented. Both Eight and Sevens are about verbs galore; 'let me do this first, then think about it later and maybe if I really have a chance I’ll let myself feel it'. Knowing this about myself helps me understand why sitting in my feelings is so hard for me. I thought there was something wrong with me that I felt so distant from emotions but it's helpful to understand that it really is not as easy for me to access my emotions than my many Enneagram Two and Four friends (lol) and I can have grace for myself as I continue to try."

3. How has the Enneagram impacted the relationships in your life and how you view others?

"Enneagram Type Eights can be described as very sensitive BS detectors when engaging others. This comes out of a desire for intimacy through testing the waters; making sure the other person won’t betray me. For me, I feel most loved and close to someone if we can wrestle through something together.

"Knowing this about myself has really helped me understand why I engage relationships in kind of a 'testing' manner and when I am living in this awareness I can be more upfront with people about my need to know they will stick by me and my insecurities that cause me to push the boundaries to make that clear."

4. How do you most relate to your Enneagram?

"I really feel so known by the tendency of an Eight to be driven by lust where lust means wanting intensity. I have really never met anyone else who I felt like is like me in this way. For me, I walk into a room and looking for the person who I can most immediately engage and connect with at an intense level. I am energetic and direct, I want intensity in my happiness, intensity in my deep conversations and knowings of others. I live in the intense. (Probably many people call me 'intense').

"Though I am good at deeply talking about real things, one of my greatest fears is being seen as vulnerable or weak by others. I can be transparent about some things because it shows intensity but it can be a mask for true vulnerability where I am out of control and do not know what to do. Knowing this about myself has helped me catch this tendency in me but it is still an everyday battle to choose honest authenticity with myself and others over lust for intensity and pursuit of feeling in more power over my life."

5. What's the biggest misconception about you or your type?

"I have definitely been told many times that I seem like I am unaffected by hard things, can rise above emotions and move forward in control of myself. This is definitely not the case underneath it all (though I often trick myself into thinking it is true of me too). Type Eights are looking to be rejected. Almost all Eights have felt blindsided at one point in their life and never want that to happen again. I feel like I have to be on the defense and be strong enough and emotionally distant enough to not let myself get hurt. I need people to know that this is my tendency and that I do care and do want to be close, but my fear of rejection can keep my from fully engaging."

6. Answer the following: I feel loved when ____. I feel unloved when ___. 

"I feel loved when someone is willing to wrestle through something hard with me and actually tell me I’m wrong (in a loving way of course). I feel unloved when I can tell someone is just saying what they think I want to hear and don’t care to go to the depths with me."

To connect with Sarah, check out her instagram here. If you want to learn more about Type Eights, take a listen to this podcast.

Do you think you might be a Type Eight after reading Sarah's interview? Do you know a Type Eight, perhaps? Give this post a share to someone it may be helpful for!

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