In mostly jest, a friend and I would often say to each other, "You're not the boss of me". Neither one of us were the bossed-around type and it just struck us as funny. As it turns out, I eventually derived a personal motto from this same phrase - "I am the boss of you".
And I am bossy. I always have been. But for me it isn't so much about bossing people around as it is about having a true sense of power and agency in the world. Some Enneagram authors suggest for that reason, that my personality - Enneagram type eight - is best represented by a tiger. I think this is a great symbol because honestly, what often feels kitten-like to me comes across to others like a tiger attack. I never could figure that out. Until the Enneagram, that is.
I have always been a leader, a challenger, and yes, bossy (all names formally ascribed to my personality type). From childhood it was important to me to be seen as strong. Somewhere very early on, I came to believe that it was dangerous to be too trusting or vulnerable so I made a subconscious decision to be neither. I put on a face to the world that was strong, self-reliant, and controlled. This worked in childhood. It kept me safe and surrounded me in the false but reliable belief that I was in control of everything, all the time. In college the song I Am A Rock by Simon and Garfunkel was my personal anthem (even if you don't know the words, you can imagine!)
People love someone powerful and in control, especially when there is a crisis or they need to get things done. Luckily being powerful and in control was my jam. Those in my charge would do what I said, would rarely disagree and performed to my expectations. But they were also intimidated by me. I remember the first time I heard one of my employees tell me that they were afraid to disagree with me. I was totally taken aback. I honestly did not know that my way of being - which was really nothing more than my way of self-protecting - had that kind of impact and I wasn't happy.
I didn't want people to be afraid or intimidated by me. I wanted to be in relationship. I wanted collegiality. I wanted to be loved.
But this is the rub that our ego defenses perpetuate. The way I act, because I am ultimately only doing so to protect myself and stay safe, does not lead to relationships of equality or collegiality. This way of acting isn't conducive to relationships at all. Even in adulthood this thing I had built around me in childhood was doing its job. It kept me believing that I was in control, protected, and safe. In reality it only kept me isolated and alone because it is impossible to be in relationship with someone inaccessible and untouchable. I began to learn that I couldn't really be loved or even honestly admired for who I was because I never showed anyone who that was. Honestly, I didn't even know.
For me the freedom of the Enneagram is in the realization that there is another way. I don't have to continue to move in the world - or rather against it - as I had been. I can have all the things my soul really desires and more - if I am willing to embrace my giftedness, who I really am underneath all that b.s. And what I am, when I am my most authentic self, is amazing. I show a face of God to the world that is not only powerful but fearless, magnanimous, inspiring, energetic, supportive, intuitive, committed, loyal and tolerant toward those who are weaker. This is most certainly a perspective the world needs, maybe now more than ever. And more personally, this reflection of God's face leads me home to the immense power in being vulnerable; the intimacy that comes from moments of honest weakness; the unimaginable joy of leading and supporting another human being into a more abundant life.
This road home is hard. But hard is not bad. And the freedom of living life purposefully instead of by habit or accident is worth every step.