Enneagram THREE Detail

The motto of the THREE is: “I want to be best at what I do.” THREEs have a strong need to succeed, and they often do. Their self-esteem comes from competence in the outer world. They thrive on praise, recognition, and admiration. They can play whatever role any group expects of them. They want to receive recognition, they want to be successful at what they do; they value themselves based on accomplishments; thus, they set aside feelings and self-reflection to get things done. They find it hard to sit and do nothing. They take over a project, and, as they work their way to success, they feel and appear on top.

Their compulsion is deceit (embroidering the truth so it will sell!), and first of all they deceive themselves. They are so wrapped up detecting the feelings of others in order to embody the expectations and values of whatever group they are in, that they are totally out of touch with their own true motivations and needs for affirmation. The dark side of THREEs is the lie to self: behind my image, my being has no value. They have a loose connection with feelings, and therefore have difficulty being alone with themselves; enforced inactivity is difficult; they have an underdeveloped inner life. THREEs are the most disconnected from their own feelings and the most in tune to the feelings of a group or audience.

Threes create a superficial image that looks good, can be sold, and will win. Most Threes seem optimistic, youthful, intelligent, dynamic, efficient, and highly productive. But often there is a terrible, deep fear in Threes that they would not be loved if they were not successful. Love, for them, is expressed through action. Action is what matters. They are intolerant of underachievers. They’ll be whatever impresses people; they are perpetual performers.

THREE is the North American compulsion; Ignatian spirituality is the opposite of THREE. For THREEs to move to health they must move away from vanity, and use their inner observer. THREEs find their way to their virtue of truthfulness only when they take the painful path of self-knowledge and look their life-lies in the face. Their conversion is often precipitated by a major failure. Their “fall from grace” in others’ eyes is actually a letting go into God’s grace and unconditional love. Mature THREEs are able to use their tremendous gifts and energy to help other people competently and effectively, and to motivate them to discover their own potential. Much would not happen in the world if we did not have THREEs.

THREEs under stress move to NINE. Feeling burned out, they disengage; they become stalled and lose their get-up-and-go. As they lose it, their successes seem shallow and worthless, which leaves the, feeling as if they don’t know who they are.

The healthy THREE moves to the mature SIX. As THREEs self-actualize, they expand their level of commitment to something or someone other than themselves. They develop a better understanding of team and community. They lose some preoccupation with personal best, and become cooperative and supportive. As their competitive nature subsides, their real self emerges and they blossom.

If you feel this describes you fairly well, then click here to explore spiritual practices that might be best suited for your type. Otherwise, click here to return to the summary descriptors of the types.