holiday feast

Holidays! The best of times and the worst of times. How is it that the most joyful, celebratory season can seem to stir up so much anxiety for so many of us?

I joke that when I go home, I often revert to 13-year-old Kara: young, moody, indecisive and unable to articulate the pent up emotion welling inside of me. And yet, at the same time, I love going home! It’s joyful and life-giving and I find myself overwhelmingly grateful for the life I grew up in.

However, as adults, anytime we step into an environment that is not our daily norm, things can bubble up.

Enter: The Enneagram… heard of it? It’s this marvelous personality assessment based on human desire and fear. It’s a great tool that helps give language to our behavior based on our greatest fears and motivations. The Enneagram is ancient; there are historical accounts of it being used thousands of years ago. Modern psychology has taken the nine-point circle that the Enneagram is based on and turned it to a current personality profiling system that is such a powerful tool in understanding who we are.

Disclaimer with any personality assessment is this: Personality Assessments (PA) exist to give language to our behavior, to help us understand more of who and why we are, and should always be a tool to give us MORE freedom in the world. In other words, a PA should never box you in, make you feel incompetent or less than and, in fact, it should empower you in the ways that you are created to be impactful in the world.

The basic idea of the Enneagram is that there are nine types of people and each of us falls into one of these numbers more strongly than another. Keep in mind that you may relate to many types because we are humans and complex and no number can fully describe who we are. However, the beauty of the Enneagram is that it really taps into our motivations and our fears.

I come from a family of five kids and as the middle child, I’ve always been fascinated with family dynamics. It’s always amazed me how we all grew up with the same parents but each of us is triggered, affected and impacted differently by different situations within the family unit. For example, I can go home and be hyper-sensitive to a comment that my mom made, while my sister may be completely unaffected. In the same vain, I may behave a certain way or say something that is received by one of my siblings differently than I had intended. This is why I love the Enneagram, because it gives us the language to discuss the why and the how. It enables us to have clear communication about the way that things impact us; and that is powerful.

Keep in mind that you may relate to many types because we are humans and complex and no number can fully describe who we are.

Have you taken the test? If not, you can do a pretty great free version here. However, I always suggest reading through each type and trying to identify which you most strongly connect with.

Each type on the Enneagram reacts to stress differently. Because the test is based on fear and motivation, certain things are going to cause more fear and anxiety in a seven than they may in a four. And vice versa. Some situations may be comfortable and calming for a six but may be causing stress for a one.

Make sense?

hand dinner

For the upcoming holidays, I wanted to put together a little guide to maximizing your season this year. We are created to connect, to feel, to be loved and to be known. When we are not feeling those things, there is usually either something off internally (a belief, mindset, etc.) or externally (an unsafe environment, high stress situation, etc.).

I hope that this gives you a toolkit to manage anything the holidays may bring up and, ultimately, to create a more enjoyable season full of love and laughter:

ONE: You are known as THE REFORMER.

Ones! You are full of integrity and are always striving to make things better. This thinking has made you to be a powerful force of change in the world.

Your biggest fear is of being corrupt or evil.

Your biggest motivation is to be good, to have integrity and to be balanced.

This holiday, take some extra time to practice relaxing. Remember that, thankfully, even though you may feel the pressure sometimes, the salvation of the world is not dependent on you. Remember that because your integrity is so high, it creates very high standards for those closest to you. This season extend some extra grace, both to yourself and to your loved ones. Allow them to be in process and in mess without expectation of how they should act. Remember to be honest about how you feel, not just about what you think is right or wrong.

Your goal in this season: To be patient with change and accept that things are good just as they are.

TWO: You are known as THE HELPER.

Twos. You are the biggest servants of all the numbers. The holidays are right up your alley because of all the ways you can love and serve your friends and family.

Your biggest fear is being unwanted or unloved.

Your biggest motivation is to feel loved.

This holiday season, be so aware of your own needs. The best help and love comes from someone who loves themselves, so make sure that you are addressing what you need first. It may seem counterintuitive to you, but it is never selfish to make sure you are taken care of before you attend to another’s needs. Think about the air mask on a flight! You have high intuition about what others need, but this season it may be a good practice for you to directly ask what someone might need before you try to meet it. Sometimes in your good intention to serve you may actually be doing a disservice if that person is not looking for their needs to be met by you.

Your goal in this season: To practice allowing yourself to be loved without being needed and to nurture your own needs.

THREE: You are known as THE ACHIEVER.

Threes! You are driven, competent, charming and competitive. You inspire and know how to impact a room.

Your biggest fear is of being worthless.

Your biggest motivation is to feel valuable and worthwhile.

This holiday season, practice cooperation. Allow others to lead a situation, to decide on what restaurant is best or what tree to buy or how to cook the turkey. Remember that true leadership is one of collaboration. You can tend towards workaholism and love accomplishing goals. This season take time to rest. To break. To be still without agenda. Give time to yourself to really connect with how this season is affecting you emotionally. Have a feeler conversation with a family member.

Your goal in this season: To remember that you are loved because of who you are, not because of what you do or what you accomplish.


Oh Four, you are the Romantic, full of creativity, depth, sensitivity and meaning.

Your biggest fear is having no identity or significance.

Your biggest motivation is to be unique and find significance.

During this season, remember that your feelings are great guides but terrible masters. Who you are is not just your feelings, so as emotion may come up in high stress situations, take time to distinguish what you feel from who you are. Practice acting despite how you feel. While you may often feel overwhelmed by the depth that you’re able to feel, avoid getting stuck in your head. Make it a practice this season to go out of your way to engage with the people around you.

Your goal in this season: Be present in the here and now! Celebrate what is happening around you and accept who you are in this exact moment.

FIVE: You are known as THE INVESTIGATOR.

Five, you are intelligent. You are a knowledge seeker full of insight, curiosity and focus.

Your biggest fear is being useless or incapable.

Your biggest motivation is to be competent and capable.

During these months of holiday, pay attention to when your thinking or speculating actually disconnects you from the moment that you’re in. You can often neglect your need of sleep and balanced eating. This season, find something that will allow you to connect with your physical self and relax. Perhaps yoga or mediation would be a great way to slow down your mind in this season. Trust can be a difficult things for fives and can often keep them from true intimacy.

Your goal in this season: To genuinely connect with your heart and to slow down mentally enough to give space to the people around you to really know you.

SIX: You are known as THE LOYALIST.

Oh six, THANK you for being you. You are the backbone of many of our families. You hold things together and you know the value of commitment and loyalty.

Your biggest fear is to be unsupported and without guidance.

Your biggest motivation is have security and support.

This holiday season, be mindful of how and when anxiety rises up in you. You, more than any of the types, are reliant on systems and belief systems and when those are threatened, it can cause great anxiety in you. Learn to listen to the things that cause you stress, and remember that fear does not help you move forward for good; it almost always paralyzes. Remember that your friends and family are FOR you and are not out to get you.

Your goal this season: To practice trusting yourself, others around you, and to live comfortably in situations that may feel a bit unstable.

SEVEN: You are known as THE ENTHUSIAST.

Oh Seven, you’re often the life of the party. You bring freedom and happiness to situations but can often become over-involved, scattered and impulsive.

Your biggest fear is being deprived and in pain.

Your biggest motivation is to be happy, satisfied, and have your needs fulfilled.

This holiday season, be mindful of how you listen to others around you. This season is one that you could easily distract yourself with all the activity, excitement and experiences around you. As you choose to engage with the holiday experience, give full attention to the moment that you’re in instead of thinking ahead to the next fun activity. This is a season where many overindulge; be mindful of your tendency towards gluttony and practice recognizing your impulsiveness instead of merely giving into it.

Your goal this season: To practice full presence, being fully engaged in the current moment regardless of whether or not it brings up pain. Sit in it.

EIGHT: You are known as THE CHALLENGER.

Eights you are strong and mighty people. You are decisive and confident, but can tend towards controlling and domineering behavior.

Your biggest fear is of being harmed or controlled by others.

Your biggest motivation is to protect yourself and your destiny.

This holiday season, practice what is counter intuitive to you: practice self restraint and humility. You have the ability to control and overtake situations but your best qualities arise when you inspire and empower others. Practice allowing others to take the lead and pay attention to when you feel reactive to vulnerability. Can you allow yourself to depend on those around you a bit more this season? You value power, but during this time of intensity, take time to notice the way that people affect you and tell them how important they are to you.

Your goal this season: To attempt a marriage between your self-assertion and vulnerability. Practice letting others truly impact you.

We are created to connect, to feel, to be loved and to be known.

NINE: You are known as THE PEACEMAKER.

Oh Nine. How we love your peaceful and calming demeanor. You are agreeable, stable and bring an air of support to any situation but can minimize problems to avoid conflict.

Your biggest fear is loss and separation.

Your biggest motivation is to have inner stability and a peaceful mind.

During this holiday season, make note of your motivations. Are you avoiding your own needs and brushing things under the rug to avoid conflict? Give voice to your inner world and remember that burying emotion and negative feelings is not actually dealing with them. You can be unaware of your own body and emotion, so make a practice to exercise this season for the ways that it is connective and will make you more aware of your own feelings and body. While you are striving for harmony, perhaps remember that going through a hard conversation or difficult experience is actually more healing than going around it.

Your goal this season: To give voice to your personal priorities and to remember that disequilibrium can be okay.

What number do you most resonate with? Does this change how you see the holidays?

Images via onefinestay



  1. I love seeing the Enneagram on Darling! I am a 7 and this truly helped me — the special seasons haven’t started and I’m now fearing their inescapable end. I simply need the enjoyable to last forevaaaa! Much obliged to you for the suggestion to be available and locked in!

  2. I love learning more about Enneagram! I’m a 9 and relate so well to what you wrote in the article about 9s. With Christmas approaching I’m already anxious
    about everyone getting along and things going smoothly, and struggling with the loss of many of our traditions as our family is breaking into smaller groups as people get married and have kids. It’s helpful to understand more about myself as a 9 and why I feel the way I do.

  3. I just took the test, got a 9, and the results say my level of health is very low, i.e. very unhealthy but it doesn’t explain why. Any extra resources.

  4. I love seeing the Enneagram on Darling! I am a 7 and this really helped me — the holidays haven’t even begun and I’m already dreading their inevitable end. I just want the fun to last forevaaaa! Thank you for the reminder to be present and engaged!

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