The Female Five

As soon as Elisabeth suggested the idea of a “breaking the stereotype” blog, I knew exactly what I would write about.

Enneagram 5s are known for their thinking power, their ability to be objective and logical, and their tendency to be less than emotionally expressive. Those traits are true of most 5s, but they’re also part of a traditional stereotype about men. And because of that, the stereotype for 5s is that we’re all masculine.

Of course that isn’t true. But female 5s are woefully underrepresented in popular Enneagram culture. So to break that stereotype, I asked the beautiful female 5s who follow @5ish_andiknowit to speak up about their experiences and struggles.

What’s it like being a female 5 in your current life season?

Of course, a main motivator for 5s is competence. And maybe nowhere else does the drive for competence show for 5s more than at work. But for 5s who are females, work sometimes looks different than it might for their male counterparts because of their jobs as wives and mothers. Here are a few of the responses from 5ish moms:

Sarah: As a stay at home mom, I am really good at being able to research ailments and being objective about emotions, but it is a struggle to be needed all the time. I have a hard time balancing my need to recharge and still being there for my kids.

Daisy: For 11 years, I homeschooled my kids. I struggled so much because I truly desired to be w & teach my kids every day, but I was not emotionally capable of being WITH THEM EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY. That manifested into a lot of unwarranted anger at my kids because I felt suffocated. They all went to school this last year and it was exactly what I needed to be a better mom. It’s difficult to be the mom I WANT to be while also taking care of myself, which I know is true of all moms, but as a 5 I feel it’s a uniquely hard problem. I feel like my personality is always fighting against me. I ALWAYS want to be left alone, and even when I miss my kids I would STILL rather be alone!

Tresy: My current season of life is a stay-at-home mom to 2 girls and 1 boy (4,3, and 9mo). Staying at home is not a natural thing for me to do, and I pretty much feel like a constant failure and am always overwhelmed. The house is a mess, dishes are never done, neither is laundry, I feel like the kids watch too much TV, like I don't have enough energy to be the mom they should have, pretty much everything. That and I have all these grand plans for doing educational things, but then don't have the energy.

I also heard from many female 5s who work in male-dominated fields. Here’s what a few of them had to say:  

Joanna: I was a comp sci major, so was neither in school nor have I worked with many women for the past 17 years. On one hand, it's "Othering" to be the only woman in the room for so long, reminded by microaggressions. On the other, I don't connect with women & feel more comfortable around the needs I work with.

Amber: I am a camp director. There are many facets and roles when it comes to running the operations of a camp. My 5ishness is very helpful in that it helps keep me grounded and logical in stressful and emergency situations. I am easily able to process and troubleshoot problems. I have an attention for detail in areas that some men in my role may overlook (hospitality, touch of home, welcome experience, curtains, etc.). I am definitely a minority as an executive director in the camping world as the only female camp director in our church denomination. It is difficult at times because many men are not welcoming to the thought of a woman in a prestigious, high leadership, influencing role.

A lot of the 5s who responded are also in a jobs or season of life that puts them in front of a lot of people, or is people-centered. Here’s their perspective:

Bekah: As a customer service representative and a high school basketball coach, being a female 5 helps me retain and organize information, as well as explain how things work to people, whether coworkers or athletes. It’s challenging when the work or schedule is fast-paced, or when a lot of people want a lot of things from me at once. I feel like I’ve run out of resources to help or encourage!

Alicia: I find it very challenging to navigate this stage of my life. As a student, I am forced into social situations where I have to work with people in uncomfortable settings. More often than not, isolation is usually the way I find myself coping with the social overload.

Aileen:  I graduated with a music business degree and worked on tour for various musicians for 6 years before transitioning to life off the road. Spending 6 years on a tour bus constantly surrounded by people, and having to interact with strangers on a nightly basis, was exhausting. We were moving so quickly and constantly though that I don’t think I felt it weighing on me right away (plus, I was in my 20s!). I loved the travel, and cherish the years I spent touring, but the day I left for my last tour I knew without a doubt that it had to be my last one.

Karen: I am a Pastor. I am 48. Being a female 5 is a challenge in this space because people expect their Pastor to be a vibrant, extroverted life of the party type, and that's not me.

Kelly: As a minister’s wife, being a 5 makes me a good, quiet listener. It also stretches me in my spiritual gifts of wisdom, discernment, and service. It is easy for me to be the behind-the-scenes person making sure stuff gets done, but I can also dive into my love of research into God’s Word. As a mom to two little ones, I am constantly needed. This can be very draining. I do enjoy serving the church body, I just need time to recharge in the midst of it.

How has the male stereotype been problematic for you?

Most of the female 5s who responded expressed that they relate to men more easily than they do women:  

Bekah: The male stereotype is tricky because I think before I feel, and so I’ve generally related better to men than women. I didn’t have many female friends during the teenage years; hormones and boy-craziness weren’t things I understood.

Joanna: My biggest struggle in relating to others is not relating to other women- to their interests, their small talk, their style, their emotions.

And being a female 5 in a culture that expects 5ish traits from men can be hurtful when people misunderstand or underestimate us:

Joanna: I think it's been more problematic to people that I don't fit the female stereotype. Though, I feel like I have my expertise questioned more often as a female 5- I have to do more to prove myself competent.

Sarah: People assume that I simply must LIVE for being a mom and being needed..but I don't like being needed constantly. If I were the dad, that wouldn't be seen as a negative thing necessarily.

Natalie: I think society is more accepting of quiet men and are more okay with giving them independence, whereas women are often expected to be more bubbly and energetic, and to take on helper roles. So when a woman is quieter or more thoughtful, there can be a lot of negative connotations.

River: Currently I am in college studying biology and hoping to apply to medical school. I think that being a female pursuing this field is hard no matter what. I have been challenged over and over again if I have what it takes to do this, how I should do nursing instead, how I won’t be able to have kids or a family, and countless other things. I think this just drives me show everyone that I am capable of this and so much more.

Several interviewees talked about how the stereotype caused them to question and second-guess themselves:

Leah: The male-focused stereotype can be problematic because female 5’s don’t meet the typical “standards” for being a female. This can lead to a lot of guilt or shame for not being more emotional or helpful or engaging with people as much as I feel like I’m supposed to be as a woman.

Danitra: I mistyped as a type 1 for the first six months of my enneagram journey because it was easier (and maybe it felt safer cause it wasn't actually hitting home completely) to see myself as a perfectionist rather than to see myself as an intellectual. I guess there was something more feminine about being a type 1.

Daisy: When my husband and I have talked with other couples, or with our therapist, the inevitable sentence always comes: “Ohhhh, YOU’RE the man and HE’s the woman!” Which is both annoying and somewhat accurate. I have always struggled with wanting to be kinder and gentler than I am. I have always felt that I’m less feminine because of my emotional toughness and introversion. People tell me I am bossy and aggressive, but I think I was a man they would say I’m ambitious and confident.

What’s Your Biggest Struggle in Relationships?

Most 5s feel their struggles in relationships acutely but don’t always talk about how they feel in relationships (familial, romantic, and friendship). And the struggles our female 5s reported were strikingly similar. Many female 5s responded that their biggest struggle in relationships is their need for distance and the need for independence.

Sarah: my biggest struggle is needing space and my husband thinking that means I don't love him. We constantly have to have check ins, where I reassure him that I love him but I just need to be alone and recharge. It's sometimes hard to be close and vulnerable.

Cindy: My season of life is that I’m almost an empty nester. Being a parent is hard. Being a parent to little ones with limited energy to give them was super hard. I have struggled the most with parenting my oldest (an 8) because her volume is on high at all times and I just want her to turn it down.

Karina: In relationships my biggest struggle is distancing myself from others. I have a hard time when people get too clingy with me and it makes me want to get away from them.

Kayla: When it comes to relationships, I struggle with knowing what boundaries others have set and being comfortable with speaking my mind. Once I’m given permission or I just get over my worries of crossing the other person’s boundaries and do it, I have no problem speaking up. It’s just knowing where those initial boundaries are that I struggle.

An even more common answer from our feminine 5s is the difficulty they have being vulnerable, opening up with others, and giving trust.

Bekah: Biggest struggle in relationships is probably staying emotionally available. I can cut off my emotions quickly, either to help others process theirs or avoid processing complicated feelings. Vulnerability can look like weakness to me.

Natalie: -Trusting people and feeling safe to share my deeper thoughts and feelings.

Kari: I recently got married, and in almost every disagreement we have had, it usually comes back to one of two things: (1) I don’t understand the plan so I don’t want to do the plan or (2) I don’t know my feelings so I don’t want to talk about them right now.

Karen: My biggest struggle in relationships is being vulnerable. I don't say much, but when I have something to say I want to be heard yet I fear not being heard, so I stay silent. Overcoming the fear of not being seen or heard is my greatest challenge.

Meredith: My biggest struggle in relationships is having those difficult, emotional, and vulnerable conversations when things rocky. Even though I deeply want us to work it out, there’s a small part that says “we can’t be having this talk because I’m not ready” or “I don’t know how to talk about it without getting emotional, so we’ll ignore it”.

Leah: I am a great listener for others, but I often suppress what I think or feel, making it very difficult to open up with others. My natural instinct is to only rely on myself and never have to rely on others,

River: My biggest struggle with relationships is my level of commitment. When I let someone in, it is a huge deal. I allow them to see me struggle and be bad at things which is so hard. I allow them to see my emotions even when they aren’t logical and I don’t understand them. All of this combines to me being very selective with who I open up with.

Crysahna: It’s hard going from introspection to sharing my needs learned in that introspection, along with telling people I care or appreciate them. It's a constant struggle deciding whether or not I should share with my close friends or withdraw.

Kynzee: Trust. I think that feeling secure and “safe” in a relationship is hard for me. Its difficult for me to feel like there is an actual confidentiality code between myself and them. Emotions are tough roads to navigate for me as I often feel like I’m grasping in the dark to explain something I don’t really understand the depth of myself.

Stephanie: My biggest struggle in relationships is I am, at my core, extremely independent. I do not want to share. I don’t want to tell why. I don’t want to express my feelings, and I DEFINITELY don’t want to explain why. It takes me a long time to think through things and figure out what I feel.

Rebekah: I think for me it’s feeling like I’m not allowed to take up space and have needs. I have a lot of chronic health conditions, and so that’s one big area that I have legitimate needs in, and it’s difficult for me to be totally honest with my loved ones about how deeply I struggle.

What are some tips you have for other female 5s?

All of the ladies who responded gave incredibly helpful tips for growth. They were so encouraging for me as I read them, and I know they will be for you, too!

Bekah: Don’t play dumb to fit in. The right people will value your intellect and protect your heart when you’re vulnerable, too.

Alicia: We are not alone. It can feel suffocating to be stuck in your head for long periods of time, so I encourage other 5s to interact with the world. Taking a moment to smile at others in the grocery store can make a big difference.

Sarah: Definitely know your limits and when you need to recharge, but also realize that there is a beauty in sacrificing your "me time" for others.

Natalie: Find a community of people who are safe, and be intentional about being vulnerable with them and letting them help and support you!

Cindy: Being outside and away from all stimulation always helps me. Find good friends and let them see behind the curtain and know what makes you tick.

Kari: What helped me the most was my personal walk with God. As a 5, I want to be capable but I realized early on that there’s no way I can do all the things I need to do to get to God, but that’s okay. He reaches out anyway and his grace is sufficient for me.

Karen: Trust your insight, because you can see and hear things that other's miss.

Meredith: Don’t let fear stop you from doing something. I was always told that the only way to take of a big problem is small baby steps and always celebrate the small accomplishments!

Karina: Learn yourself. Know what you are capable of, stretch yourself, but not in ways that are unnecessary.

Leah: It’s ok if you don’t “feel” as much as you think you’re supposed to. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for others. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. You have so much to offer the people in your life and it starts with accepting who you were created to be.

Laura: You are absolutely not alone! I encourage you to find people who don’t force you to be anything less than the “enigma” you are. Those people are out there, and they will love you and your brain and your thoughts fiercely. Once you find them, let them love you.

Daisy: Know that even if you’re not the woman/mother/daughter that others think you should be (or that YOU think you should be) it doesn’t detract from the gifts and strengths that you have as a 5. Learn to use your strengths positively and with humility, and it will begin to soften you in other ways.

Ashley: Take the time you need to speak. Push yourself toward growth but not so much you feel violated and broken afterwards. Treat small talk like a skill to research. Find a person or two who “get” you, or at least won’t leave when they don’t.

Tresy: Social media is a killer to confidence. No one is perfect or as well put together as their feed shows. It's hard to remember, sometimes taking a break is the best thing for you.

Melissa: you’re not intimidating, they’re just intimidated.

Amber: The Enneagram is an incredible tool, but it does not define who you are. Continue to be you in all your beautiful, observer glory! You are loved. You are enough. You are heard. You are not alone.

River: Being motivated by capability is a beautiful thing until we place our worth in it. We will never master everything or know everything and that is ok. Our quirks and opinions and needs aren’t too much and we are enough.

Danitra: You don't need to have answers for everything. You won't look foolish, just human. Even as I'm sending this, I'm feeling anxiety about not having the most informed answer I can give. But sometimes we just need to pull the trigger and know that Jesus is strong in our weakness.

Kelly: Know how to share your needs. If you need an hour to yourself, tell someone. If you need to say no to a commitment, say no. Don’t get angry about not being recognized as a female 5. You have value to God. Make Him famous with your gifts.

Kristy: Embrace your assertiveness and independence.

E: Sometimes we try to fake fitting society’s expectations and be like other women. But you don’t have to do that. Don’t ever be ashamed for being you. There is nothing wrong with you.

Stephanie: Don’t settle for a knowledge of God. Work toward a dynamic awareness of Him; of knowing Him. Meditate. Get into your body. Work to be aware and present.

April: I carried shame before discovering the enneagram, thinking I was lazy or selfish because I don’t like unexpected obligations and minimize my needs. But then I realized that these were natural - I can stretch myself and also be okay with needing space.

Sara: Embrace pain (trauma/suffering) through journaling, prayer and music.

Colbi: My tip for fellow female 5’s would be to try your best to communicate your needs. That way, it’s easier for someone else who is different from me to understand my needs clearly and why they are important to me.

Emily: It’s actually better and healthier in the long run to take some time for yourself each week than to push yourself too hard.

Rebekah: You are valid as you are. Period. Full-stop. End of story.

And to all the other types reading this blog, thanks for taking this glimpse into what it’s like being a female 5! The 5s in your life appreciate you more than you know.  

To guy 5s, thank you for accepting us women and making us feel seen by sharing your experiences and listening to ours. And thank you for contributing to the world in the uniquely 5ish ways you do! You are seen, respected, and valued, and you’re doing better than you feel like you are.

For all you female 5s reading this, thank you for being YOU and creating beauty around you. You are making a difference, and you’re stronger than you know. In the words of Amber, one of our lovely female 5s, “You are loved. You are enough. You are heard. You are not alone.”

Written by: Anna Yates of @5ish_andiknowit


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