|Type 3, The Achiever
|Type 8, The Challenger
|Type 6, The Loyalist
|Type 1, The Reformer
|Type 7, The Enthusiast
|Type 2, The Helper
|Type 9, The Peacemaker
|Type 5, The Investigator
|Type 4, The Individualist
Personality Type THREE: The Achiever
The Success-Oriented, Efficient Type:
Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image- Conscious
Generally, Threes are effective, competent, adaptable, goal-oriented, ambitious, organized, diplomatic, charming, into performance, and image-conscious.
Threes get into conflicts by being expedient, excessively driven, competitive, self-promoting, “appropriate” instead of sincere, boastful, and grandiose.
At their best, Threes are inner-directed, authentic, modest, admirable, well-adjusted, gracious, interested in others, and self-accepting.
Type Three exemplifies the desire to be our best self, to develop all of our potentials, and to value ourselves and others. Threes are the “stars” of the personality types—people of tremendous drive, ambition, and belief in themselves. Threes want to excel, to be the best at whatever they do, and they are willing to put in the effort it takes to do so. Threes can be found at the gym, taking classes at night, putting in extra hours at work, learning how to coordinate their best colors when they dress—basically doing what it takes to shine. While Threes are energetic and ambitious, they are also diplomatic—they want to be liked and esteemed by others. They strive to be presentable and appropriate, not wanting to come across in ways that would be disapproved of. They know how to put their best foot forward and present themselves in a way that highlights their energy and confidence.
Threes are, above all, goal-oriented. They get a particular objective in their sights and then actively engage in activities that will bring them closer to whatever they seek. They pursue their dreams tirelessly, and cannot understand why others are not similarly motivated. Thus, Threes also enjoy sharing self-development tips, explaining how to make money, lose weight, develop career skills, and so forth. They are hard workers, diligent and effective—and they like helping others to be that way, too.
To achieve their goals, Threes learn to be highly adaptable. They are able to change course when necessary and may even do so several times, including a change of career, if that is what it takes. They may try different approaches to problems until they find a formula that seems the most effective. Similarly, Threes quickly adapt to different social settings, always wanting to be appropriate and to exemplify the values of whatever group they are in. While their adaptability can be an enormous asset, it can also be overdone, leaving Threes unsure of who they are or what their own deepest values are.
In all of their dealings, Threes value efficiency and effectiveness, and they are often prized by businesses for these values. They are extremely goal-driven, and once they are given a task to perform, will do their best to make sure that it is done as quickly and efficiently as possible. The problem is that Threes can be efficient to a fault—becoming accomplishment machines, brushing their real feelings and needs aside to “get the job done.” This way of living can leave Threes feeling empty and emotionally isolated, despite the successes they may be having.
Problem arise because Threes learned in childhood that they are only valuable for their accomplishments and self-presentation. They believe that they will only be loved if they become extraordinary in some field of endeavor. Thus, the pressure to be outstanding in whatever they do is intense and draining. Even if they are not working at a career and are primarily keeping a home, they will strive to have the most outstanding home in their neighborhood and to be “Super-Mom” or “Super-Dad.” Threes find it difficult to stop or rest when they are caught up in their drive for success. They believe that to do so is to risk failure—and most Threes would rather die than fail and risk being humiliated. Their drive for success can also create conflicts with their personal or family life. Similarly, intimacy issues are not uncommon.
When Threes push themselves too hard and are unable to deliver everything that they would like to, they may resort to presenting successful images to others rather than letting people know their actual state or emotional condition. They attempt to convince others and themselves that they have no problems and that they are doing great, even though they may feel depressed or even burnt out. They believe that they can “fake it until they make it,” but if Threes do not slow down to deal with their emotional problems, sooner or later, a crash is inevitable.
In brief, Threes want to feel valuable and worthwhile, to excel, to be affirmed, to be effective and efficient, to perform well, to be “the best,” to have attention, to be admired, and to impress others. Threes do not want anything that looks like failure, to sit around “doing nothing,” to be overshadowed by others, to look unprepared or awkward, to be average, to ask others for help or support, or to be caught in distortions of the truth.
Their Hidden Side
Beneath the surface, Threes have deep anxieties about their personal value. They feel that unless they maintain a certain position or image in life, they will be devalued, rejected, and tossed aside as worthless. Thus, they feel a constant inner pressure to “have it together,” to not need much intimacy or personal support, and, above all, to constantly perform at maximum efficiency. Unless you knew a Three very well, you would never suspect the degree of emotional vulnerability and insecurity that they conceal beneath their smooth, efficient surface. The fact is that despite Threes’ apparent social ease, there is great loneliness and a belief that they must not need help or support. As much as possible, Threes try to avoid their feelings of shame and isolation, but a large part of their growth entails allowing these feelings to arise and become integrated into their functioning self.
Threes often report that they feel confident in their ability to attract other people. They are usually charming and magnetic, and they know how to behave appropriately. Also, many Threes spend significant time and resources cultivating their personal presentation. They work at being in good physical condition and are often well-groomed. They want their partner to be proud of them and their accomplishments, so they often are drawn to people who they believe will appreciate them. The problem is that Threes fear that many parts of themselves may be less than outstanding or even unacceptable. Fears of potential rejection may prevent them from letting people get close to them. Significant relationship issues include the following:
- Holding the partner to strict standards that the partner does not wholeheartedly share.
- Presenting a favorable image that they later fear they will not be able to live up to.
- Fearing that people only want them for their looks or abilities.
- Not speaking up when they need help or support, then resenting the partner for not supporting them.
- Workaholism as a way of avoiding intimacy.
- Pre-emptively leaving relationships out of fear of rejection, or having serial relationships (“conquests”) as a way of bolstering their self-image.
- Haranguing the partner for not reflecting well on them, for behaving in ways that do not support the Three’s self-image.
To learn more about compatibility issues and relationships with other types, see the Enneagram Type Combinations.
The Passion: Deceit (Vanity)
Deceit here is primarily a kind of self-deception. Threes convince themselves that only their image and their performance are valuable. They subconsciously feel that their own natural inner qualities are inadequate or unacceptable, so they strive to become the sort of person that they believe others would look up to. They have an idea of the qualities, talents, and appearance that they need to have in order to be acceptable, and they work tirelessly to embody those qualities.
Thus, Threes convince themselves that they must always be outstanding, superb, and exceptional—the best at whatever they are focusing on. To be any less than this is to fail, to be worthless. This is like the child who gets straight A’s but is then tormented by getting an A-minus or a B-plus, or the athlete who wins several gold medals but then feels like a failure for getting a silver or bronze. This kind of self-rejection and self-deception causes Threes a great deal of suffering. Once Threes lose themselves in these self-deceptions, truth becomes whatever works to keep their self-image going, and they are able to deceive others, often without any apparent remorse.
At Their Best
Healthy Threes are excellent communicators, motivators, and promoters, and they know how to present something in a way that’s acceptable and attractive. In the workplace, they can be very effective at building morale and company spirit. They value excellence and accomplishment and truly enjoy helping others discover how to shine. Even when they are not “coaching” others, they often inspire people to become like them in some way.
Healthy Threes are able to do this because they believe in themselves and invest time and energy in developing their native talents. They value themselves, their lives, and the people they love, seeing life as an opportunity to offer what talents they have been given to the world. They are also “adaptable” in the best sense of the word. If they see that they are doing something incorrectly or that their methods are not reaping positive results, they are willing to learn another way and to change. Further, healthy Threes are not in a contest with anyone. They deeply enjoy working with others toward shared goals and do not need to outshine their peers.
Thus, healthy Threes may or may not have significant accomplishments, but others are impressed by their realness and their heartfelt sincerity. They model an honesty, simplicity, and authenticity that inspires people. They do not try to impress others or inflate their importance; rather, they see their limitations and appreciate their talents without taking themselves too seriously. At their best, they are also tender, touchingly genuine, and affectionate—they truly become “heroes” and “role models” who inspire others by their outstanding achievements, humility, and warmth.