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Me, Enneagram, And A Three

A lot of you know that the Enneagram personality inventory has become quite a phenomenon in recent years, especially among emerging generations.

So, after having people tell me that I’m a “Five” or a “One” over the last several months, I decided to take the plunge and take the test.

I turns out I’m a “Three.” My second highest is a “Six.” What does that mean?

It means a lot, as it turns out. As I checked out what it means to be a “Three,” (portions of article copied and pasted below), I had two dominant thoughts: 1) This has an uncanny level of accuracy at both the healthy and unhealthy levels; and 2) How could anyone ever accomplish anything in tennis without being a Three?

Other Threes, as it turns out, include Condoleeza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Bernie Madoff, and O.J. Simpson. Oh well.

Here goes, remembering that self-awareness prevents self-destruction:

Threes are self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, they can also be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement. They are diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness. At their Best: self-accepting, authentic, everything they seem to be—role models who inspire others.

  • Basic Fear: Of being worthless
  • Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile
  • Enneagram Three with a Two-Wing: “The Charmer”
  • Enneagram Three with a Four-Wing: “The Professional”

Key Motivations: Want to be affirmed, to distinguish themselves from others, to have attention, to be admired, and to impress others.

We have named personality type Three The Achiever because when they are healthy, Threes really can and do achieve great things in the world. They are the “stars” of human nature, and people often look up to them because of their graciousness and personal accomplishments. Healthy Threes know how good it feels to develop themselves and contribute their abilities to the world, and also enjoy motivating others to greater personal achievements than others thought they were capable of. They are usually well regarded and popular among their peers, the type of person who is frequently voted “class president” or “home coming queen” because people feel they want to be associated with this kind of person who acts as a stand-in for them. Healthy Threes embody the best in a culture, and others are able to see their hopes and dreams mirrored in them.

Threes are often successful and well liked because, of all the types, they most believe in themselves and in developing their talents and capacities. Threes act as living “role models” and paragons because of their extraordinary embodiment of socially valued qualities. Healthy Threes know that they are worth the effort it takes to be “the best that they can be.” Their success at doing so inspires others to invest in their own self-development.

Threes want to make sure their lives are a success, however that is defined by their family, their culture, and their social sphere. In some families, success means having a lot of money, a grand house, a new, expensive car, and other status symbols. Others value ideas, and success to them means distinguishing oneself in academic or scientific worlds. Success in other circles might mean becoming famous as an actor, or model, or writer, or as a public figure of some kind, perhaps as a politician. A religious family might encourage a child to become a minister, priest, or rabbi since these professions have status in their community and in the eyes of the family. No matter how success is defined, Threes will try to become somebody noteworthy in their family and their community. They will not be a “nobody.”

To this end, Threes learn to perform in ways that will garner them praise and positive attention. As children, they learned to recognize the activities that were valued by their parents or peers, and put their energies into excelling in those activities. Threes also learned how to cultivate and develop whatever about them is attractive or potentially impressive.

The problem is that, in the headlong rush to achieve whatever they believe will make them more valuable, Threes can become so alienated from themselves that they no longer know what they truly want, or what their real feelings or interests are. In this state, they are easy prey to self–deception, deceit, and falseness of all kinds. Thus, the deeper problem is that their search for a way to be of value increasingly takes them further away from their own Essential Self with its core of real value. From their earliest years, as Threes become dependent on receiving attention from others and in pursuing the values that others reward, they gradually lose touch with themselves. Step by step, their own inner core, their “heart’s desire,” is left behind until they no longer recognize it.

Thus, while they are the primary type in the Feeling Center, Threes, interestingly, are not known as “feeling” people; rather, they are people of action and achievement. It is as if they “put their feelings in a box” so that they can get ahead with what they want to achieve. Threes have come to believe that emotions get in the way of their performance, so they substitute thinking and practical action for feelings.


When It’s Healthy & Unhealthy

Healthy Levels

Level 1 (At Their Best): Self-accepting, inner-directed, and authentic, everything they seem to be. Modest and charitable, self-deprecatory humor and a fullness of heart emerge. Gentle and benevolent.

Level 2: Self-assured, energetic, and competent with high self-esteem: they believe in themselves and their own value. Adaptable, desirable, charming, and gracious.

Level 3: Ambitious to improve themselves, to be “the best they can be”—often become outstanding, a human ideal, embodying widely admired cultural qualities. Highly effective: others are motivated to be like them in some positive way.

Average Levels

Level 4: Highly concerned with their performance, doing their job well, constantly driving self to achieve goals as if self-worth depends on it. Terrified of failure. Compare self with others in search for status and success. Become careerists, social climbers, invested in exclusivity and being the “best.”

Level 5: Become image-conscious, highly concerned with how they are perceived. Begin to package themselves according to the expectations of others and what they need to do to be successful. Pragmatic and efficient, but also premeditated, losing touch with their own feelings beneath a smooth facade. Problems with intimacy, credibility, and “phoniness” emerge.

Level 6: Want to impress others with their superiority: constantly promoting themselves, making themselves sound better than they really are. Narcissistic, with grandiose, inflated notions about themselves and their talents. Exhibitionistic and seductive, as if saying “Look at me!” Arrogance and contempt for others is a defense against feeling jealous of others and their success.

Unhealthy Levels

Level 7: Fearing failure and humiliation, they can be exploitative and opportunistic, covetous of the success of others, and willing to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the illusion of their superiority.

Level 8: Devious and deceptive so that their mistakes and wrongdoings will not be exposed. Untrustworthy, maliciously betraying or sabotaging people to triumph over them. Delusionally jealous of others

Level 9: Become vindictive, attempting to ruin others’ happiness. Relentless, obsessive about destroying whatever reminds them of their own shortcomings and failures. Psychopathic behavior. Generally corresponds to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

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