The Enneagram Type Eight: The Challenger

The Enneagram Type Eight is one of the boldest personalities out of the nine types, but their true power comes from their passion for justice and lust for life. The Enneagram is a great way to examine different personality types, find blind spots, and ultimately, understand oneself. Read on to learn all about the Enneagram Type Eight. 

Enneagram Type Eight Overview 

As the name suggests, a type Eight not only enjoys taking on challenges but gives others the opportunities to challenge them–pushing them towards greatness. They’re the rugged individualists of the Enneagram.

Eights use their charisma, along with their physical and psychological prowess, to persuade others to follow them in all kinds of endeavors–whether that’s making world peace, starting a war, or just getting the kids to eat their vegetables. 

Eights have incredible willpower and vitality, and they come alive when they get to use these qualities in the real world. Their boundless energy helps them affect changes and “leave a legacy,” but also protect “the weak” and those they care about. Eights know that this requires true strength, bravery, persistence, and endurance. They’ll work on these qualities in themselves and look for them in others. 

Although they may be considered the “powerful, domineering” type, an Enneagram 8 also can use their strong, assertive, determined nature to accomplish many great things in the world. They take pride in their independence and sharp minds that propel them forward as confident leaders.  

What Makes The Enneagram Type Eight Tick?

The Enneagram Eight is driven primarily by their fundamental desire for power and self-protection. This drive is fueled by core values like competence, power, influence, control, and justice. They’ll expertly direct their abundant energy, whether physically or mentally, to pursuing these values. They tend to focus on retaining and increasing whatever power they have for as long as possible.

Their greatest fear, unsurprisingly, is being disempowered, controlled, or hurt emotionally. They’ll use their strength to protect themselves and their feelings–keeping others at a safe emotional distance. Eights can tend to feel hurt or rejected underneath their lofty exterior. Because they fear this rejection, they may attempt to reject others first as a means of deflections.

Relationships that require vulnerability can be a challenge for an Eight. From their perspective, love, trust, and emotional attachment gives someone power over them, which triggers their basic fear.

An Enneagram Eight’s stumbling point is they can be angry, domineering, stubborn, power-hungry, lustful, and avoidant of vulnerability. These are just blind spots that can be worked on with conscious intention. An Eight can flex their growth muscles by approaching the decision-making process by evaluating what they’re thinking and feeling before acting instinctively.

Every number on the Enneagram has a path of growth and a path of stress. These are numbers that a person will begin to emulate when they’re in seasons of distress or positive growth. When in high distress, an Enneagram Eight will show characteristics similar to a Five, the Investigator. They will be secretive, withdrawing, detached, cynical and critical of others. In growth, they move towards the characteristics of a healthy Two, the Helper. They’ll become more caring and open-hearted, willing to nobly protect and serve others.

Enneagram Type Eight Wings

Each number on the Enneagram has “wings,” or numbers that sit next to them on the scale. These wings are types with which the individual shares similar characteristics and forms a more specific profile. For an Eight, this means their potential “wings” are the Seven and the Nine.

8w7, the “Maverick:” This is an Eight who shares many characteristics with the Type Seven. This type is energetic, enthusiastic, social, and may appear more combative than other Eights. 

8w9, the “Bear:” The Eight wing Nine Enneagram type has similar features to the Nine (ironically, the Peacemaker). They are calm, confident, and usually more patient than other Eights. 

Enneagram Type Eight Typical Action Patterns

The Eight is in the “action center” of the Enneagram, meaning they act on gut instinct and make things happen without a second thought. In their belief, any action is better than doing nothing at all. As they pursue these actions, their directness and intensity will come across in how they speak, the words they choose, decision-making style, and body language

They typically take charge during meetings or group projects and feel naturally comfortable in leadership positions. When they’re in control, they’ll manage the big picture. If the Eight feels they’re low-ranking on the totem pole, they’re less likely to engage. They’d prefer to assert their independence by being in charge of the decision-making. But they have a penchant for micro-management, especially when under pressure or when others seem to be dropping the ball. It’s frustrating for them to take control of smaller tasks or issues that may feel like a waste of their time, but they’ll do what they must to get results. 

Even though they’re frustrated by incompetence or weakness, they’ll be highly protective of those for whom they feel responsible. If someone exploits weaker individuals, Eights will protect and defend the defenseless. The only hesitation in their fight for justice is when people intentionally act like a victim, an Eight’s pet peeve.

Enneagram Type Eight Typical Feeling Patterns 

Anger is the Enneagram eight’s go-to emotion, which they try to channel into prompt action. After they feel they’ve adequately expressed their anger, they tend to move forward quickly. 

Other softer emotions like sadness and fear can make an Eight feel weak and vulnerable. To avoid this, they’ll use denial as a defense mechanism. Some eights are more aware of feeling emotions like fear and sadness, but they’ll still choose to hide these vulnerable feelings from others unless they feel a sense of security.

An enneagram 8 will likely express positive emotions like love through power and protection. 

Enneagram Type Eight Typical Thinking Patterns 

When an Enneagram 8 first meets a new person, they’ll try to assess them as either “weak” or “strong” and will act accordingly towards them. This can create black and white thinking when evaluating others. 

Eights want to know the truth and distrust gray areas or ambiguity. In a conflict situation, they’re only comfortable if the truth comes to light. They want to know exactly what’s going on, and their pet peeve is being “out of the loop.” The more info they have, the more the Eight is apt to focus on the big picture instead of expending their energy on details. 

The mind of an Enneagram Type 8 tends to focus on their own needs and goals before others. They don’t want to be bribed, forced, obligated, or charmed into doing something they feel is unimportant, dull, or not worth their time. 

The Enneagram Eight in Relationships

The beauty of the Enneagram is that all numbers are compatible with each other, whether platonically or romantically. Barriers in relationships can be broken down through self-awareness, introspection, and conscious intention.

Eights are driven by their compulsion to fight for their own freedom and self-reliance. In that case, they crave friendships with individuals who respect their autonomy and gain their absolute trust. While they’ll typically avoid vulnerability, they actually need these friendships where they feel safe talking about troubles.

In friendships and acquaintanceships, they’re not particularly concerned with that others think of them. They have little to no fear of conflict, and they are not bothered with limits or boundaries. This lack of fear in confrontation or conflict can lead to quick escalation, especially if they feel a threat to their autonomy. Sometimes they can be unaware of how their words are perceived by others, which can lead to miscommunication or hurt. To counter this, friends and loved ones can best communicate with an Eight by saying exactly what they mean and matching the energy that Eights bring to the table.

In romantic relationships, Enneagram Type 8’s can be authentic, passionate, daring, purposeful, dynamic, and invested. While their weakness is the verbal expression of emotions, they still feel them deeply. When they love someone, they are often very committed to making that relationship work. Their clearest expression of love is through hard work, provision, support, and helping their partner achieve their goals. They crave a partner who is their equal– someone who will stand up to them without trying to exert control. An Eight appreciates a partner who will help them express their emotions but understands that the Eight shows their deep care in other ways, too.

The Enneagram Type Eight as a Parent 

As parents, eights are natural leaders. They are firm and teach their children a strong sense of personal responsibility and accountability. Most importantly, kids know their Eight parents will always be on their side. Eights encourage their children to be strong when facing challenges and persistent in pursuing dreams.

Eights are natural disciplinarians but tend to shy away from vulnerability. This becomes difficult if a parent wants to raise their children in an emotionally safe space. As parents, Enneagram 8’s have to make an effort towards demonstrating emotional vulnerability for their kids. They might see emotional sensitivity in children as a weakness. 

Eights tend to have larger-than-life personalities, and their kids can sometimes feel invisible or overshadowed. Encouraging their personalities, emotions, and passions without judgment can go a long way. 

Type Eight Levels of Health and Development

Healthy Eights are brave and charismatic leaders who advocate for themselves and others. They will pick themselves right back up after each stumble — stronger than before. They’re self-restrained, authoritative, benevolent, courageous, self-sacrificial, merciful, and patient. They take initiative, provide, protect, and champion people with their strength. At their very best, they’re even willing to surrender to higher authority for the greater good.

Unhealthy Eights may ruin relationships in their pursuit of power and authority. They can be highly intimidating and combative to get what they want. They’re confrontational, boastful, egocentric, belligerent, and tend to create adversaries. It’s hard for unhealthy Eights to see others as equals. Everything is a test of wills from which they refuse to back down.

Eights grow when they learn to access and embrace their vulnerability and weaknesses and understand how to work cooperatively with others to create a better outcome.

You May be an Ennegram Type Eight if…

  • You’ve always naturally fallen into leadership roles, whether intentionally or unintentionally. 
  • When you’re faced with problem, your first instinct is to tackle it head-on by yourself. Ask for help? You didn’t even consider it. 
  • You can sense power dynamics like a sixth sense in every relationship, conversation, or situation you enter into. If you ever feel as though the power dynamic tips out of your favor, you experience an almost gut impulse to shift the dynamic at the very least—level it out.
  • Pity parties are a pet peeve, and you refuse to enable the ones you love to wallow. You want to see your loved ones reach their potential, even if you have to show tough love to get them there.
  • As frustrated as people can get with your tough exterior, you’re the first person they can count on to be there for them in an emergency.
  • Criticism isn’t inherently a problem – but you just aren’t interested in doing things someone else’s way. Unless the critique can help you reach your own goal or growth more effectively, its not important.
  • Being vulnerable with other people is nerve-wracking. Even with emotional intimacy, you only reveal information that you consider “safe.” 
  • You don’t necessarily like conflict or confrontation, but you see it as a necessary evil. You know that the world takes advantage of the weak or anyone who does not stand up for him or herself, and you’re just the person for the job. 

Famous Enneagram Eights

It’s always fun to compare yourself to famous creatives, visionaries, and leaders. These are just guesses based on public perceptions of these celebrities and their works, but can you identify with any of these famous figures?

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Winston Churchill
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Fidel Castro
  • Oskar Schindler
  • Donald Trump
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Toni Morrison
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Serena Williams
  • James Brown
  • Keith Richards
  • Queen Latifah
  • John Wayne
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Bette Davis
  • Sean Connery
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Matt Damon
  • Alec Baldwin
  • Barbara Walters
  • “Dr. Phil” McGraw

Are you an Eneagram Type Eight? 

Do these characteristics strike a chord with you? Are you smiling because your spouse, child, boss, or best friend is clearly an enneagram type Eight? Share this article with them! While the Enneagram is not exhaustive, not prescriptive, it’s a great way to understand yourself and achieve personal growth. 

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