Attractive, self-assured, and charming, type 3s are the Vivian Leighs and Dolores del Rios of the Enneagram world. This highly energetic, highly competitive, and highly competent personality type can take the world by storm with its charisma, but what makes this type tick?
Here’s everything you need to know about the Enneagram type 3 personality.
Type 3s are extremely sensitive to how they are seen, how they are portrayed, and how others perceive them. This type always puts its best foot (and hand, for good measure) forward, craving acknowledgment and praise for the constant achievements they amass.
Also known as the “Pioneer”, type 3s are typically sophisticated, well dressed, ambitious, and smart, which makes many of their peers look up to them. A part of the Enneagram “Heart Triad”, 3s learn early in life that achievements result in love and acknowledgment.
Though now a successful lawyer, 34-year-old Judy’s been performing the violin for as long as she can remember—for friends, for guests, for family, and at events. Her mother pushed her into violin classes at the age of three, and Judy was expected to excel and perform everywhere, from church to college.
The positive response she received from such performances led to a taste for performing, and she is still the go-to in her law firm for any performances.
This type is also trained early to discount feelings and ignore them. For example, Gina’s father, a stoic man himself, ridiculed any displays of emotions that Gina exhibited as a child.
Feelings were for weak people and losers, and Gina was neither, in her father’s books. She learned early on that suppression of her feelings is the only way to please her father and earn his love, which eventually became an integral part of her nature.
Therefore, despite all the glitz and glamor, most 3s are still searching for their true identities since they were never allowed to be this growing up. They had to be someone else to be accepted by peers, friends, society, and even family, and this often imposes the burden of perfection on this type.
Here’s a deeper dive on the enneagram type 3 from Fr. Richard Rohr:
Type 3s crave acceptance and validation. Victories are a way for them to feel valued.
They thrive on compliments, accomplishments, and admiration, and will do anything to receive praise and approval from those surrounding them—their parents, their peers, their neighbors, their neighbors’ dogs, the stranger next to them in the subway, and every random person on the internet. (No, we aren’t kidding.)
Therefore, this type’s basic fear is to feel worthless and be a failure. This type is driven by the subconscious belief that “success” equals “worthy” and if it doesn’t—well, we fake it till we make it, and when we make it, we continue to fake it because that’s what helped us make it.
What stresses out a type 3? Repeated failures, inability to solve problems, negative perceptions by others, pressure from feeling that they need to be constant entertainers, acknowledging their emotions, and of course, being exposed as worthless.
Constantly trying to achieve things can stress out anyone, let alone a type 3 who’s made it their life’s aim and end to earn as many achievements as possible to feel worthy. Failures are always seen at a personal level and when they come to light, the fear of being judged by others for these failures can be overwhelming and stressful.
A stressed type 3 doesn’t realize that the stress they’re feeling is one’s own doing, instead convincing themselves that they are a result of high expectations from others, especially those that they don’t want to disappoint.
Getting to the root of the issue and addressing it, while accepting that life isn’t a competition, will help overcome such feelings and lower stress levels.
An unhealthy type 3 fears humiliation and failure to the extent that they will turn opportunistic and exploitative to ensure their success, doing anything it takes to either be successful or project the image that they’re successful and superior. They also get jealous, coveting others’ success.
Left unaddressed, this further degrades into deception and deviousness, where their wrongdoings and errors are covered at any and all cost, including sabotaging people or betraying them (you know, like Kim and Saul from Better Call Saul?).
They may do anything possible to ruin someone else’s happiness, obsessing over it relentlessly, all as a way to distract them from their own failures. This could descend to unhealthy levels of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
- 3w2: This wing borrows most of its characteristics from the type 2 personality, which means that it enjoys doing things for others and is friendly and extroverted.
This wing is the CEO of making and forming strong social bonds and therefore, thrives in professions such as entrepreneurship, event planning, entertainment, and broadcasting.
- 3w4: This type is heavily influenced by the type 4 personality, so unlike 3w2, this wing is serious, introverted, and work-oriented. Relationships and social engagements are trivial things that have no place in this wing’s life plan!
3w4s are hard workers who are constantly trying to achieve personal and professional success; the latter is what drives them to do well in fields such as finance, marketing, law, politics, and business.
Each Enneagram personality has three instinctual subtypes—social interaction (relationships in social groups), self-preservation (preserving one’s security and safety), and one-to-one bonding (interpersonal relationships and interactions)—which define how each personality type reacts to one of three basic human instincts.
Therefore, we have 27 subtypes.
Here’s how type 3s react to each instinct.
This subtype (SP 3) invests effort in not just looking good but being the definition of good. They work to establish a sense of security (even if it is material) and while they don’t always want the limelight, they still appreciate acknowledgment, especially for a job well done.
They view vanity as an obstruction to the “goodness” they strive for and have always been in line with. If there’s a task to accomplish, these workaholics will simply get the job done themselves, and no, the to-do list isn’t going to be completely crossed off till the end of their lives.
Success can be found in the achievement of the next task, except that the next task never comes!
For 37-year-old Wall Street wiz Deke, it’s understandable why this SP 3’s to-do list is never-ending. From an economically poor background, Deke has always strived to elevate the financial status of his family for as long as he can remember.
Even with a cushy job, property, savings, and a six-figure salary, he can’t shake off the feeling of wanting to achieve more, which, at this stage of his life, is quite irrational, burdensome, and yet, a compulsion.
Few subtypes and personalities are more obsessed with beauty and charm than this one. Security and prestige? What’s that? In any case, this subtype doesn’t want either, what with its carefully developed magnetism and charisma.
However, that doesn’t stop them from pursuing their goals with the same fire that type 3s usually display. Vanity is not encouraged but neither is it discouraged—it simply exists. This subtype is more comfortable supporting people around it rather than promoting itself.
Social 3s like power and are assertive, competitive, and strong. They love being admired and approved of—more than the other two subtypes. These 3s are natural leaders and can usually be found right in the middle of all the action.
While they are concerned about doing what is best for the group, their decisions will be influenced by how they will look coming out of the situation (they need to come out of it looking the best, if that wasn’t clear already!).
Social 3s seek prestige and status, due to which they may also hold socially elevated positions (such as a coveted membership in a fancy club or property in a posh area) and are quite competitive, seeking to climb the social and professional ladder as quickly as possible.
The goal-achieving machines that they are, type 3s thrive in competitive environments (though they constantly need to remind themselves that competition is healthy) where they can keep setting and achieving new goals. They enjoy networking and using these connections to further their ambitions.
The ideal workplace for a type 3 also includes a cohort of peers who admire the 3’s achievements, subordinates that follow all instructions, the chance to meet and impress new people, and a boss who is constantly giving them new responsibilities and opportunities (while appreciating them—that honestly goes without saying by now).
3s are also extremely productive and action-oriented, even if it’s sometimes unhealthy—it’s okay to be a person struggling with productivity due to a prolonged crisis, but not if you’re a 3. When faced with the chance to take a break from work, 3s will most likely choose to work on personal projects and call that a “break”, instead!
Some of the professions that would suit a type 3’s productivity and ambition:
- Financial analyst
- Advertising Consultant
- Investment banker
When does a 3 struggle in a professional environment?
When they aren’t liked by their peers, they’re constantly criticized (or worse, ignored), their subordinates don’t respect their authority, and their boss doesn’t credit them for their work—oh, the horrors!
In a professional environment, type 3s get along best with colleagues who are rooted, logical, motivated, and positive. They easily build personal bonds with such people and will acknowledge their achievements and hard work. Even more surprisingly, they may even keep the competition healthy!
3s appreciate professional communication that is clear and to the point, where needs are directly expressed and tasks are specifically defined and designated.
However, one thing that will instantly deflate a type 3?
Even if the criticism is constructive, 3s generally have a hard time accepting feedback, so much effort needs to be made to soften the blow by focusing on improvement paths and reassuring them that they are valued.
Additionally, the failure to accomplish set goals will also decrease a type 3’s morale.
Oh, and never put two 3s in the same team or be ready to pull out the fire extinguishers—the competition will get pretty unhealthy pretty quickly!
3s strive hard to portray themselves as successful, sparkly people to their partners, especially during the courting period.
However, it’s all roses and pink skies and fluffy heart-shaped clouds only in the beginning with such portrayals.
As the relationship progresses, a 3 may become more focused on performing for their partner than being authentic. This extends to all aspects of the relationship, from parenting to even making love—and they’re such good performers that they’ll convince you and themselves!
Eventually, all good things must come to an end, which means that a 3 will lose touch with their true identities with all this performing, becoming a chameleon that takes on the partner’s identity. Before you know it, the spark’s lost.
However, a healthy 3 will bring desirable qualities such as adaptability, optimism, effective communication, and enthusiasm to the table (even if they do try to occasionally claim a better seat for themselves!)
If you’re in a relationship with a 3, bear in mind that your partner may end up avoiding their emotions, deeming it as an obstacle to their productivity. They may also get obsessed with work, to the extent that they start ignoring you and the relationship.
Encourage taking a step back. A slower pace, where they switch from constant doing to just being, may cause anxiety, so help your partner find a technique for relaxation.
At the end of the day, remember that what you may be seeing is a tough facade, but this is just a bid by type 3s to impress you and feel better about themselves, and not an attempt to deceive you—unless they aren’t getting what they need from you.
Encourage self-love, speaking the truth, acknowledging emotions, and displaying emotional vulnerability by creating a safe space for your partner.
Many prominent world leaders, heads of countries, sportspeople, musicians, and popular Hollywood figures are all type 3s—unsurprising, considering how much this type loves success and fame (and of course, the paychecks that come with it)!
- Elvis Presley
- Augustus Caesar
- Bill Clinton
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Andy Warhol
- Muhammad Ali
- Oprah Winfrey
- Michael Jordan
- Courteney Cox
- Ben Kingsley
- Barbra Streisand
- Whitney Houston
- Tiger Woods
- Jon Bon Jovi
- Lady Gaga
- Taylor Swift
- Brooke Shields
- Richard Gere
- Demi Moore
- Reese Witherspoon
- Ryan Seacrest
- Cat Deeley
- Tom Cruise
- Ken Watanabe
- Jamie Foxx
- Lance Armstrong
- Prince William
- Justin Bieber
- Ben Kingsley
- Rachel Berry (the endearingly neurotic heroine of the Glee series)
- Don Draper (the handsome devil from the Mad Men series)
- Scarlett O’Hara (the romantic heroine of the classic Gone with the Wind)
- Gaston (the misogynistic antagonist of Beauty and the Beast)
Enneagram 3 memes poke fun at the type’s desire for success at all costs, their competitiveness, and their love for the limelight!
Some of our favorites include the reactions of a type 3 when you tell them that you’re just playing for fun, or that instead of acknowledging the winner (which is clearly the type 3), everyone’s declared a winner in the spirit of the game!
3s are great people to have around or be, but running away from emotions toward endless work is only going to be detrimental. Happy 3s are the ones who’ve found their true identities; therefore, all 3s should attempt this through introspection, reflection, self-observation, self-development, and self-inquiry.