I recently caught the movie Easy A, one of Emma Stone’s earlier films, on cable. It’s a roundabout retelling of The Scarlet Letter, set in a high school. Olive, the main character, inadvertently starts a rumor about losing her virginity. Then – as rumors and teen movies tend to do – things spiral out of control. Easy A is a funny depiction of how going along with what everyone else wants isn’t actually an easy way to get through life.
Or, put differently: “It ain’t easy being an Enneagram 9.”
Most of the trouble Olive gets into happens because she’s trying to avoid conflict. The first lie she tells is to get her best friend to stop bugging her about her social life. The second one is to keep a fellow student from getting bullied. Throughout the movie, people (including adults who should know better) ask Olive to throw herself under the bus – and she keeps saying yes. The “easy” in Easy A isn’t a description of Olive’s sex life – it’s a description of her main goal in life, and her approach to conflict.
Olive is an enneagram 9 personality. She wants to be everybody’s friend – and aside from the rumor mill shenanigans, she seems to be. From teachers to students of every clique, everyone seems comfortable talking to Olive. She strives to be an easygoing, “stays out of trouble” kid. But ironically, by trying to avoid conflict (and help everyone else avoid it), Olive ends up facing the ire of her entire school.
Another Nine characteristic is Olive’s difficulty in figuring out what she wants in the midst of everyone else’s needs and desires. While it’s glaringly apparent that she’s attracted to “Woodchuck Todd,” it takes nearly the whole movie for her to figure that out.
Most of us exhibit traits of all the enneagram styles at one time or another. So while advice about Nine’s hangups is most helpful to Nines, it can apply to anybody. It describes an unconscious set of habits for approaching life – not your identity. My enneagram style is 4. We are not known for being easygoing or low maintenance. Yet, I’ve had times when I overcompensated so much for being “difficult,” that I’ve been outwardly indistinguishable from a Nine.
So here are some thoughts about “when being easy isn’t.”
You can build an amazing career on being easy to work with. Being easy opens doors no amount of talent will crack. Especially in creative fields, where being “difficult” is the norm, being easy can be a huge advantage.
But sometimes, those open doors let in predators. Know when people are asking more than you should give. Have the strength to say “No” and stick to it. You may be tempted to say “Yes,” then just not do what you said you would, but that never works out.
Value what you give. (And know what you want to get out of it.) Don’t sacrifice everything in a metaphorical “fire sale” to pay your way to your dreams. Be sure your goals are still worth it to you – and that you actually know what they are. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing the plot for your life.
Understand that conflict is a given. Weirdly often, trying to avoid conflict just ends up magnifying the conflict, spawning new problems. If your goal is to conserve your energy (and Nines are the hypermilers of personal energy), then deal with conflict as soon as you can. You’ll almost always expend more trying (and usually failing) to postpone or avoid it.