How I integrated a piece of me that had been lost.
This week's blog is a guest edition from Peta.
I discovered the other day, at a business retreat surrounded by curious minds and welcoming spirits, that I am not an Enneagram 2.
I imagine that reading that without knowing me isn’t groundbreaking news to you. So?
I have spent most of my adult life (and a fair portion of my teenage years) caring for people. I have been a Sunday School teacher, a camp counsellor, a youth worker, a mentor, a wife, a homemaker, a mother, and a carer.
I have tapped into the giving, nurturing part of myself for so long that, when I first sat down to take the Enneagram test last year, I immediately came out as a 2.
Enneagram 2s are the helpers. The caregivers. The people pleasers who want to be of service any way they can, often to their own detriment. They can easily slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. *waves*
And, on the surface, that was me. It was the role that I had taken on - had given myself.
I would put my own needs dead last. Behind my children, my husband, my siblings, and my mother. I would feel guilty for putting any boundaries in place, or for voicing my own needs. When faced with a difference of opinion I would try and find a way to set aside my own preferences, and go with the flow rather than cause an argument.
I built a career in the vocational youth workspace. Spending time with teenagers who needed support - a listening ear, and learning to set aside my own opinions, prejudices, and preconceptions to give them space to be themselves. All excellent counselling skills to learn, but ones that often leaked into my own life.
I played the good wife and mother. Always making sure dinner was ready to go, that the house was clean, that all friction had disappeared, that I had read something interesting we could talk about that evening, and that I made an effort with my appearance.
And then, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer at 32, I put all my fear, anxiety, exhaustion, and revulsion at the medical paraphernalia in a box, and quietly nursed him as best I could. I did everything possible to make his last few months comfortable, even putting aside my desperate need to have specific conversations (over my devastation and our son’s future) because I didn’t want to upset him.
Then, left to raise our 2 year old, I turned all my focus on making sure he had the stability and love that would carry him through this moment of uncertainty. I found pockets of solitude to cry into a pillow, an hour or so after he’d fallen asleep to nurse a glass of wine and grab back a crumb of adult time. But my head was taken up with this small boy over everything else.
When I started dating again and fell in love with my current husband, I threw myself into caring for him. Running a busy company he often neglected his own needs. And I showed my love by making sure he has looked after. Nutritious home-cooked meals, a tidy house..yep - I was back there again.
Another baby and lockdown saw me pushing my own identity further down under the overwhelming crush of anxiety, loneliness, and other people’s emotional and physical needs.
And this was me when I started my copywriting. Fresh into the world of online business with a vision to help other people (there it is again) to communicate their own passions. A 2 to my core.
Except it felt like there was something missing.
Where was the passion and deep drive to change the world that I’d had when I was younger? Where was the social justice warrior? The girl who wanted to be Prime Minister? The teenager with massive potential who was going to do something huge?
Was she still a part of me? Could I even integrate her into who I was now? Or was it simply youthful exuberance?
And, in that retreat space, thousands of miles away from my family responsibilities, given permission to focus on what I wanted, not what everyone else needed, I discovered something that opened to door to that girl again:
I’m not a 2 at all.
If you looked closely through the decisions, attitudes, and emotions of my life, the signs were clear to see. I am, without doubt, an Enneagram 1.
I am a Reformer - a crusader with a strong sense of justice, an advocate for change. I look at the world and see how it can be improved…and then I go and do it (or I try, anyway!). I want to help people - but by making the world a better place, not just by obsessing over whether they’re eating a balanced diet.
Now, there is nothing wrong with being a 2. But by tapping into this caregiver, people-pleasing mindset, I had pushed down a really important part of me - the need to make change happen - underneath everyone else’s needs. And it had left me feeling inauthentic and frustrated.
And so I set about integrating the political justice warrior back into my own personality. But also on integrating her into my business.
My business has always been about all of me - my children (and the complications of running a business when you’ve also got to change nappies), my life experience (and how being a widow has supercharged my empathy), and my weirdness (stationery and Marvel movie chats, anyone?!).
(Incidentally, I also learnt that many women mistakenly identify as 2s because we’re pushed into the caregiving role our entire lives. We’re conditioned to put others before ourselves, and so we adopt that persona. Basically, I’ve been letting the patriarchy tell me who I am…you can imagine how pissed off that makes me!)
But, for it to be a truly authentic part of me, it needs to include my passion for social justice. My business needs to explicitly incorporate my own values (otherwise I might as well just get a corporate job making loads of cash).
And, honestly, while I used to find content for my business pretty hard to create, now I’m buzzing when I write my social posts. I can’t wait to share things, to highlight resources, and to talk about my perspective.
And, as I’ve shown up more in my political happy place, as I’ve started more difficult conversations, and addressed the constant crises we’re dealing with in today’s world, people have responded. Perfect clients have come out of the woodwork, and colleagues have jumped on a thread and given amazing perspectives.
I’ve spoken to so many online business owners who wish they could be more vocal about the causes close to their hearts. But they don’t know how to get started. Do they know enough? What if someone disagrees with them? How do they stay consistent?
That’s why I built The Soap Box - a community for business owners with a social conscience who want to champion causes and share their values online.
Over the last 3 months, we’ve helped Founding Members clarify the issues they want to talk about in their business, held Q+A calls on all sorts of marketing and messaging conundrums, ironed out strategies for consistency in messaging, and debated hot topics in the Circle forum.
“The Soap Box is a wonderful platform of genuinely curious humans trying to stand up for what they believe in with integrity. If you’re the type of business owner who shares news stories when they drop but then never mentions them again. And you want to make it more strategic, this is a great place to learn how.”
Maybe the part of you you’re trying to reintegrate has nothing to do with your business. Maybe you need to rediscover fun, rest, or your geeky side (all things that Sadie can help you do!).
If so, I’m cheering you on from the sidelines and I can’t wait to see all of you in one gorgeous package.
If you’ve built a business, and feel like something’s missing…
If you want to be free to talk about the issues that matter to you, without feeling tongue-tied, under-informed, or combative…
If you’d like to join Nikki and other passionate business owners who want to make the world a better place…
Then we’d love to have you in The Soap Box.
Doors are open until the 7th March. Jump in!
Peta is a copywriter and messaging strategist who works with health and wellness coaches and health and wellness startups.
She helps them clarify their vision, communicate their brilliant ideas, and weave their values through their messaging in a way that connects authentically with their audience. She's a political geek who loves making politics more accessible. And she's a mum of a 3 year old and a 10 year old who's almost permanently tired.