There have been plenty of articles and blogs written about how the pandemic has affected people’s lives – how isolating from others has been more difficult for some and a much needed “break” for others. This is not to say it hasn’t been difficult for everyone, but -- Coming from an extrovert, my experience with the pandemic has been a painful, difficult, but eye opening experience, and has helped me understand my own personality, traits, and needs on a deeper level.
At Project Courage, we are beginning to explore ourselves as employees, leaders, and overall based on the Enneagram. The Enneagram is in basic terms, a framework for best understanding personality in different areas – at work, play, in social relationships, and within ourselves. According to the Enneagram institute, “…the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.” (Enneagraminstitute.com).
It was no surprise to me after taking the questionnaire, that my main Enneagram “type” is a 2 – The Helper. As a therapist, this was fitting. A type 2 derives most of their sense of being from connection with others. 2’s are relationship focused and feel best when connecting with others and assisting. It turns out that my sense of self confidence and belonging in part comes from my ability through my profession and in my social and family life to be close to others and to lend a hand where and when needed. Now, 2’s are known to “get in trouble” when they sacrifice their own needs in order to serve others and may end up being resentful of the time they spend helping others. More on that later…
My second highest score on the Enneagram was for the Type 7 – The Enthusiast. 7’s are known as being the most extroverted type on the Enneagram and are always looking for new experiences. As do 2’s, Type 7’s enjoy being with others. 7’s relentlessly plan for the future and are known to anticipate what lies ahead – most of which they tend to create for themselves. They are not the type to sit and wait for others to plan get togethers or vacations.
In March of 2020, I had grand plans for the rest of the year, including two vacations and various get togethers with others. Birthday celebrations, holidays, and social events suddenly came to a screeching halt, as did my ability to connect with others in the way I was used to. Many therapists and people in the helping professions talk about “self care” as a way to manage the myriad of challenges that exist merely from being alive – in my case, my “self care” is to help de stress and find peace throughout the sometimes overwhelming journey of being a mom, wife, friend, therapist, employee, and caretaker. And for me, my self care has always revolved around being with others. Whether it was hiking with family, having people over to celebrate occasions, whether big or small, or just enjoying time with my friends, that has been my way to recharge for as long as I can remember. Eating out at restaurants is a favorite. My most salient memories growing up are of playing softball and other sports as a team, spending time with friends, and meeting new people. I love working in an office, with coworkers surrounding me, bouncing ideas off of each other or simply connecting in a shared space with clients and office – mates. Traveling is also a favorite of mine – whether it be for business or pleasure.
When COVID became a valid and not passing threat, I became nervous. Suddenly, I was not able to see people, and I was afraid of not only how physically this virus would affect the world and my family’s safety, but also how this would affect my ability to decompress and enjoy life. I also have difficulty as do many people with “the unknown” – how long will this last? When can I resume normal activity? When will I stop feeling so worried? All the while, worrying about the extreme effects of the virus on people’s physical and mental health. The lack of physical connection with others felt strange and unnerving. I began to think about my son’s lack of exposure to people – adults and children – and how this would affect his growth and development.
Obviously, the effects of COVID have been and will continue to be long lasting. Over a year later, even as things shift toward “normalcy”, nothing is the same, including ourselves. But I have learned far more about myself in the past year than ever. Some of this was difficult to learn – does my self esteem revolve around my relationship with others? How can I learn to create more peace inside myself, by myself? I also realized I was taking my relationships for granted – not reaching out to people as much as I could have, “knowing” that I would eventually run into them or that there would be another time to see them. Learning to live without seeing the most important people in my life face to face was more difficult than I could have imagined, but it taught me the importance of staying connected, and enjoying a “simpler life”. I did more cooking, less take out. We spent a lot of time in our yard and I became more creative with the activities I planned for my son. We took walks every day and I met neighbors I hadn’t seen before even after two years of living on the street. I even learned how much my husband enjoys quiet family time, something that I had never thought to discuss with him, as my zest for planning events and being on the move overshadowed checking in with him. I have certainly had to be more creative with how I get my needs met as a “Helper” and an “Explorer”, and I struggled with this. I struggled between acceptance of a new way of life, and wanting to revolt against it. every day I would check to see whether the “fight against covid” had made any progress. And gradually, I began to see glimmers of positivity about this new way of life. It made me more thankful for my family, for my job, for being able to help others through this time. It gave me a sense of purpose to be given the privilege of going into work and being able to provide in person care. And I was able to spend time with my son and pay more attention to his needs. Finding out more about my personality traits, whether they are working for or against me in different situations, combined with the pandemic, has given me a perspective that has been eye opening and rewarding.
By: KC Hespeler