The Life of an Enneagram Type 3: Success, Failure, and Imposter Syndrome

If you know me, you’ve probably heard me talk about how great the Enneagram is. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, it’s a personality type classification system with 9 different types

A quick disclaimer – the reason I find the Enneagram useful is it helps me understand myself. It is not an excuse for unhealthy behavior. And the Enneagram is unique to other personality tests in that it shows a spectrum of healthy to unhealthy within each type, and is focused on helping you grow toward being the healthiest person you can be. It shouldn’t be a substitute or an excuse for working toward personal or spiritual growth, but if you like to understand why you think and behave the way you do, you may find it helpful.

If you haven’t taken the test, there are different options online. However, because the Enneagram is about motivation – your fears and desires – sometimes the tests don’t work. To determine your type, I would recommend reading through the descriptions of the different types on the website. See which one resonates with you, and also which one makes you cringe a little – that’s probably yours.

I’m a type 3 “the Achiever,” or “the Performer,” which essentially means my basic desire is to be valuable and my basic fear is being worthless. This means I try to earn value through my achievements. More specifically, I’m a 3 wing 2, which means I secondarily tend toward type 2“the Helper.” As a 3w2, at my best, I love to help and support others through my actions. At my worst, I’m a people pleaser. That’s oversimplified but again, these are just personality classifications and this is the one that aligns closest with me.

Life as a type 3 is filled with lots of really high highs and really low lows. As an achiever, it’s easy to allow my identity to get tied up with work, relationships, and even ministry. When I excel, life is great. And when I mess up, it’s really not great. 3s sometimes get a bad rap for being shallow because success and image are so important to them, but the reality is everyone wants to be valuable – 3s just feel it a bit more, and success and failure strike at the very core of our identity.

This weekend, I failed at something. It really wasn’t a big deal, but for me even small failures are pretty devastating. Then, I got hit with the most fun part of being a 3 – imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is rough because it can take hold at any time, regardless of success or failure. This weekend, I realized (for the millionth time) that my motivation for everything I do – even serving others – is selfish. I recognized that I behave in a certain way in order to be perceived in a certain way. And I felt like a fraud.

While it is most characteristic of 3s, I believe imposter syndrome is something everyone experiences. And although success and failure are particularly important to 3s, everyone struggles with tying action together with identity.

There are a couple of things I needed to be reminded of this weekend, and maybe someone else needs to hear these reminders too.

You don’t have to try so hard.

You are worthy of love. You are valuable not because of what you do, but because of who you are. 3s need this reminder especially, but regardless of your personality type you need to realize that your identity is not based on your performance.

You are not a fraud.

I once heard a pastor say, “If you wait to act until your motivations are good, you’ll wait forever.” Everyone has selfish motives, but some people are more aware of them than others. Just because you realize you’re a selfish person (like every other person on the planet), don’t let your motives paralyze you from doing what you love and what you’ve been called to do. One of the marks of 3s at their best is actually authenticity, so don’t let imposter syndrome tell you that you’re a fraud. Own your motivations and strive to be real and authentic with others.

You are loved unconditionally.

I hope you have people in your life who love you unconditionally – I know I do. But even if there is no earthly person who will give you this kind of love, the God of the universe thinks you’re pretty great. He loves you regardless of your actions and in spite of your motivations. And there is nothing you can do to earn that love. It’s a gift, freely given.

So you’d better believe it – you are an awesome human. Success or failure.

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