The Enneagram Type 4 is known as “The Individualist”, a creative powerhouse with outside-the-box ideas and a sensitive, creative, and self-aware approach to the world and their work. The secret to their happiness lies in creation, not consumption. They may attract attention due to their one-of-a-kind style, radical way of living, or groundbreaking art.
Type 4s live their lives deviating from the norm and exploring novel approaches and perspectives.They are driven by a need to know themselves better, and are among the most self-reflective of the Enneagram types. While they usually like it this way, a Type 4’s introspection can turn to self-absorption, and their sense of feeling different and out of place can deepen into a sense of being flawed, damaged, and defective.
If you’re a Type 4 looking to learn more about yourself, below you’ll find a summary of common Enneagram 4 characteristics, along with information on variants, wings, and directions of growth and stress for Type 4s. You’ll also learn about the needs of an Individualist to succeed in their relationships and career, and the names of some notable Type 4s.
Below, we’ve listed some of the key traits of an Enneagram Individualist.
Type 4s are:
- Type 4s are often drawn to artistic expression.
- Type 4s think deeply about themselves and the world around them.
- Emotionally honest
- Type 4s are determined to understand and express the truth of their experiences.
- Type 4s find it hard to respond to criticism or negative feedback.
- Type 4s see themselves as being different from those around them.
Each Enneagram type can be understood as stemming from a core set of motivations, specific desires and fears that are at the root of that type’s behavior. These desires and fears are inextricably linked, where the desires are the type’s ideal way of being in the world, the fear is that of falling short of that ideal or simply being incapable of meeting it.
In the Enneagram model, each type has an associated core fear. The traits that people associate with that type develop through their avoidance of their fear.
The core fear of the Individualist is of being insignificant and of learning that they are not unique.
Each Enneagram type has core desires that correspond to and are deeply interconnected with their core fears.
Individualists crave self-expression and individuality. They put a lot of stock in having a unique point of view and wish to make a meaningful contribution to the world in a way that only they are capable of.
Enneagram 4s are profoundly creative individuals with rich imaginations and unique outlooks on life. Their tendency towards introspection means that they are very in touch with their own feelings and always remain authentically themselves. They don’t steer away from emotional honesty or vulnerability, even when it’s painful, and are willing to ask the tough questions even when others are not.
While the introspection that characterizes Enneagram 4s can be their greatest strength, it can also lead them down a difficult path. Type 4s can be their own harshest critics, believing themselves to be flawed and broken in some way. Self-reflection can turn into a melancholy self-absorption as Type 4s focus more and more on the qualities they lack, view others with envy for possessing those traits, and ultimately withdraw from the world around them to wallow in their own pain.
Directions of Growth and Stress
The nine personality types identified within the Enneagram model are not rigid classifications. While a person’s base type does not change, their personality will evolve and even take on traits from other types in response to changing circumstances in their life.
Each Enneagram Type is connected to two others which represent that type’s typical directions of stress and growth.
Growth Arrow to One
In periods of positive growth, Type 4s will “move towards” Enneagram 1, the Perfectionist. Individualists that are doing well and feeling positively about their lives may naturally adopt some of the positive traits of the Perfectionist.
An Enneagram 4 moving in a direction of growth will:
- Cultivate a sense of structure and control over their lives.
- Work hard towards becoming their best authentic self.
- View the world with fairness and good judgment.
- Allow their values to guide their self-expression.
Know that the Individualist will remain an Enneagram 4 at their core, but will be able to channel the positive traits of the Perfectionist towards their own goals.
Stress Arrow to Two
When under stress, Individualists may begin to mimic the negative behavior patterns of an unhealthy Enneagram 2, The Helper.
An Enneagram 4 moving in the direction of stress may:
- Become focused on others to appease their own insecurities.
- Sacrifice who they are to appease the people around them.
- Cling to others while being terrified of rejection.
- Fixate on the feeling that their ideas and feelings are unwelcome.
Another key concept within the Enneagram model is the three instincts, these being the self-preservation instinct, the sexual instinct, and the social instinct. All three instincts are inherent in every human, but every person prioritizes the three differently, with their main priority being their “dominant” instinct. Understanding how your dominant instinct manifests within your Enneagram type can provide helpful insights into your personality and behavior.
The self-preservation (SP) instinct pertains to our need for personal safety and security.
While self-preservation 4s have the same feelings of envy and lack as other Type 4s, they are less likely to express that pain to others. SP 4s value resiliency and perseverance, and they pride themselves on their ability to remain stoic in the face of suffering. Paradoxically, their tendency towards suffering in silence is directly linked to a hope that their efforts will be noticed and acknowledged and earn them the love they desire.
SP 4s are often humanitarians with nurturing and compassionate natures. Unable to communicate their own pain, they focus on easing the pain of others by standing up for those who have been oppressed and wronged.
The social (SO) instinct pertains to our need to be part of a community and to feel like we belong.
For social 4s, the melancholy and self-criticism that all Type 4s are prone to is combined with the need to be seen and have their suffering acknowledged by other people. SO 4s can get caught up in their negative emotions and self-recrimination, finding a sort of poignant beauty in their own suffering. They compare themselves to those around them and find themselves wanting, and while they yearn for love and acceptance, their strong emotions lead them to struggle to find their position in a group and society.
These 4s may see themselves as outcasts, but they also have a propensity towards self-sabotage, creating circumstances where they are rejected in order to validate their sense of shame.
The sexual (SX) instinct pertains to our sexuality and our personal relationships.
For Type 4s with a dominant sexual instinct, the Individualist’s characteristic envy morphs into a competitive nature. SO 4s feel competitive as a way to dull the sting of envy and to soothe feelings of inferiority. Consciously or not, they believe the way to feel better about themselves is to one up someone that has more resources than them.
SX 4s thrive off of dramatic experiences. Without passion, life feels dreadfully drab and monotonous. If an SX 4 wants to be loved, they may come out and ask for it, or they may try to be particularly appealing in the hopes of attracting affection. However, when they receive that affection, SX Type 4s can struggle to maintain it, as they mistake kindness and gentleness for insincerity.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Enneagram 4s
Because people change in response to life circumstances, there is no single defined set of behaviors that mark out an Enneagram 4. Instead, Individualists will tend towards different facets of their personalities in their average state versus at times when they’re feeling healthier or more unhealthy.
Signs of a Healthy Individualist
- They feel connected to their creativity and able to contribute their unique perspective.
- They pursue unique forms of creative self-expression.
- They listen to their inner self while remaining receptive to the outside world.
- They look at themselves honestly, flaws and all.
Signs of an Average Individualist
- They find motivation in their desire to be different, perhaps trying on different styles and looks in order to stand out.
- They feel a strong need to be appreciated in their self-expression.
- They seek community amongst those who can match their energy.
- They withdraw when they feel as if their sense of self is being threatened.
Signs of an Unhealthy Individualist
- They become absorbed in their own negative feelings of being deficient or flawed in some fundamental way.
- They withdraw from their loved ones or drive them away.
- They get mired in their own repetitive negative thought patterns and self-recriminations.
- They turn to self-destructive behaviors like drinking and substance abuse.
Personal Growth Recommendations for Enneagram 4s
- Stay present and grounded in the moment. Imaginative as you may be, avoid having long conversations in your head and escaping into a fantasy world. You’re practiced at thinking about your life and relationships, but don’t forget to experience them. If you’re struggling with this, try mindfulness practices like breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and physical exercise.
- Practice self-discipline. Your work is important to you, but you never seem to be in the proper mind to get things done. Make your work a priority by establishing a healthy routine and sticking to it. Finding your rhythm and taking care of yourself will make it easier for you to focus on the work that you find fulfilling.
- Your emotions do not define you. Emotions come and go quickly. Like waves in the ocean, they constantly arise and subside. Don’t mistake your emotions for your identity. Rather, think of them as a compass to guide you in making the best decisions.
- Find balance. Whenever you find yourself over-identifying with your negative emotions, make sure to take a step back and remind yourself of your strengths and achievements. Cultivate objectivity and self-compassion in your treatment of yourself.
Enneagram 4 Wings
The numbers on either side of your Enneagram type are known as your “wing” types. While people will display traits from all nine Enneagram types over the course of their life, their wings will especially influence their behavior. Most people lean more towards one wing. Enneagram 4s will lean either towards their 3 wing, written as 4w3 (4-wing-3) or towards their 5 wing, written as 4w5.
At first, Type 4 and Type 3 may not seem to have much in common. Where Type 3s are externally-motivated, social, and self-confident, Type 4s tend to be inwardly-focused, withdrawn, and deeply vulnerable. However, 4w3s find a way to boost their unique Type 4 creativity with drive, ambition, and sociality of their wing.
Type 4s with a 3 wing tend to be more interested in sharing their ideas with the world and embracing the potential vulnerability of being seen, something that can be difficult for Individualists to experience. 4w3s take more social risks but they’re also more likely to have those risks pay off, as other people are more inclined to acknowledge and value their work.
Type 4s and Type 5s are both withdrawn personality types. While Type 5s do it to defend the sanctity of their thoughts, 4s do it to protect their feelings. When Type 4s have a 5 wing, these traits work in concert.
4w5s are intense and profound individuals. They are analytical and attracted toward intellectual pursuits, making them less prone to flashiness and focused on being seen as successful than 4w3s. These individuals are likely to create stunningly original works that are emotionally and intellectually fascinating.
If the 5 wing is particularly strong, 4w5s may decline help from others, believing that owing anything to anybody comes with a cost to their freedom, safety, and independence.
Enneagram 4 Careers
Enneagram Type 4s feel most fulfilled when their work is both creative and beautiful. They do well in jobs that give them the freedom to carry out their ideas and when they are surrounded by people who understand and affirm their unique vision.
Enneagram 4s struggle in careers where they don’t feel their talents are being put to good use. They are likely to be dissatisfied with monotonous work. They may feel stifled and get easily upset if their work gets a lot of criticism or their manager puts too many restrictions on them. Job environments where they don’t feel taken seriously can seem unbearable to them.
Enneagram Type 4s excel in roles such as:
- Interior Designer
Enneagram 4 Compatibility with Other Types
Enneagram 4s are most compatible with Type 5, the Investigator, and Type 9, the Peacemaker.
In relationships between a Type 4 and Type 5, the 4’s tendency toward emotional expression is balanced by the 5’s commitment to honesty and reliability. The stability of a Type 5 can be comforting to the more emotional 4s, while 5s admire 4s for having the courage to delve into the darker parts of their psyche.
Both of them can deal with whatever the other says or does, and neither is easily shocked. They find each other interesting and are willing to put up with each other’s quirks. For both the Individualist and the Investigator, their relationship feeds their creativity, and they can let their partner be themselves and follow their ideas.
Relationships between 4s and Enneagram 9s can also be very harmonious. 4s infuse the 9’s life with passion while 9s provide much-needed support and instill their introspective partner with confidence. While both value deep connection, they also understand and echo each other’s occasional need for independence and privacy. Both 4s and 9s can be very creative and together they support each other’s creativity and give each other room to grow.
Enneagram 4s are least compatible with Type 8, the Enthusiast.
Enneagram 4s and 8s can make a volatile pairing due to the intensity they both possess. Both are 4s and 8s big personalities that can be a lot to handle, and when their desires to arrange their lives clash, both sides can see the other as trying to change or control them. Conflicts abound and escalate as both sides get drawn into the emotional intensity that comes so easily to both Type 4s and Type 8s.
Type 4 relationships with Type 8s may take on the familiar pattern of fighting constantly only to make up. While this can feel exciting and passionate, it can also spiral into unhealthy and deeply harmful patterns of behavior as both sides struggle and fail to stop hurting each other.
Famous People Who Are Enneagram Type 4s
Enneagram 4s are deep, brooding thinkers dedicated to self-expression and creating beauty in the world. Notable Type 4 public figures include:
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian Novelist and Philosopher
- Kurt Cobain, American Singer-Songwriter
- Albert Camus, French Philosopher
- Wes Anderson, American Filmmaker
- Anne Frank, German-Dutch diarist of Jewish heritage
Enneagram 4s are unique and sensitive individuals who use their creativity to express their unique perspective and find their place in the world. Their tendencies towards melancholy and self-recrimination can make life difficult for them and those who love them, but their thoughtful and introspective natures also allow them to bring great beauty into the world. At their best, 4s are able to forge deep connections with others through their work and ideas, whatever those may be. Overcoming their fears of rejection and sharing their ideas, they find that others value their original and creative efforts and that they feel more secure and better understood for having let others in.