Getting Out of the Box: A Conversation with a High-Mastery Type 3
Fast-paced, goal-oriented and possess high-energy all the time — these are only a few examples from the pool of remarkable traits of Type 3 aka The Performer of the Enneagram. In today’s world, Type 3s, for the most part, are celebrated as they’re able to get things done very quickly. Type 3s want to feel valued and accepted. However, they hold a subconscious belief that to be worthy of love and acceptance is that they have to be successful or at least be perceived as one.
For low-mastery Type 3, deceit may come into play by tying their worth to the polished image they presented to everyone not realising that they are loved and accepted just for being their true selves.
Unfortunately, I can’t be writing this article featuring my own story (as I’m a Type 3 myself) as that would be biased. So, I decided to re-connect with a former student who started working as a financial planner at a tender age of 21 (the earliest time you can apply as one). I taught her the Enneagram about three years ago, and I certainly believe that she had learned valuable lessons throughout those years.
As expected, she’s well-dressed — sporting a navy-blue suit with make-up on and her hair neatly comb even though we’re having this meeting via Zoom. She shared with me what she’s been up to for the past 3 years and her struggles along the way.
- Avoid being “uselessly competitive”
She said, “I coined this term ‘uselessly competitive’. It’s so irritating because I feel the itch to win on everything.” Type 3s can struggle with workaholism and competitiveness. As they are very image-driven, they always want to be seen as someone knowledgeable and capable in doing anything that’s thrown their way. They don’t want their weaknesses to be seen by just about anyone. They find it hard to show their vulnerable side fearing that they won’t be accepted and loved. She shared that she struggled with these so much at the beginning of her career. She felt uncomfortable asking help from people as she thought asking for help means that she’s no longer the best. She wanted to project an image that she can do everything by herself. She said she was fortunate to have a mentor who was very hands-on and proactive in offering support. It was also hard for her to say no to people and their requests as it is a sign of competency. Saying yes builds her image of being capable and she thought people love her for it.
After being introduced to Enneagram, she started off by asking small favours or help from others. No human can always be strong all the time. Being vulnerable allowed her to be real and authentic with her weaknesses and limitations.
Having no capacity is not the same as being incompetent. She also started drawing boundaries and saying “no” to people. She can have too much on her plate and it’s okay to say no to people, nicely, or direct them to others who could help. She realised that people liked her, not because of what she can do for them, but for who she is.
- Reserve time for reflection and people who matter to you
She confessed to being workaholic, working from 7 am to 11 pm every single day. To her, it doesn’t make sense to take a break as she has her goals to pursue. She also realised she didn’t make enough time for her friends and would even set a fixed number of hours when hanging out with them.
With a packed schedule and limited time for friends and self, she suddenly found herself in a crisis and didn’t know what to do. The stress that built up made her disappear from work and isolated herself from everyone for two months. She said that the months leading to this low point in her life, she was always hustling and didn’t allow herself to take a break. During her hiatus, she reflected on what happened, what she could’ve done better and what she should focus on moving forward. Admittedly, it wasn’t easy for her to admit her shortcomings. She said that she struggled with sitting down and reflecting on her thoughts.
Nowadays, she would force herself to reserve time for herself — no longer working seven days a week and spending more time with her friends and family. She admits that this is still a struggle for her, but she knows that if she doesn’t proactively take a break, she’ll burn herself out again. As the Chinese saying goes: Taking breaks allow us to go further in life. Be a wise Type 3 and not one that hustles mindlessly.
- Focus on happiness not on achieving things
When set on a goal, Type 3s will do everything they can in their power to achieve it. They will make an effort to go above and beyond to get what they want. Before being a financial planner, she has always excelled academically and in all of the co-curricular activities that she engaged in. She was so used to receiving praise and affirmation from the people around her to the point that she needed the attention and recognition to thrive and maintain her sense of self.
Being part of the insurance business, she knows that sales wouldn’t be high all the time. She struggled with not having the same success as her peers even after working her ass off. She didn’t know how to process and manage her emotions in scenarios where other people are consistently being praised for their work more than hers. She felt that she wasn’t successful, and all her efforts were wasted. So when she hit a speed bump at work of not being able to hit the KPI’s, and others’ were outperforming her – she initially put on a façade that she’s okay and was performing well. She made herself work harder while suppressing a lot of emotions. Until one day, a colleague asked her if she was okay, and she broke down in tears. She took an off the next day – but that day became days, then weeks to months.
Going back to that pivotal moment she experienced, she discovered – what’s the point of gaining the whole world but losing her soul? Then she realised that she should focus on her happiness and not on maintaining a successful image. What’s the point of “looking successful” when in reality, she’s not happy – wouldn’t it be a deception and lack authenticity? She can now go deep within herself and to ask herself what truly makes her happy, aside from “work” and how others see her.
As for her final piece of advice for her fellow 3s, she said “Pick your battles. Know which ones you can win and which ones you can’t. If you can’t, just let it go.” The ability to realise that she is loveable the way she is and not because of what she can do and achieve is the best gift for a Type 3 to receive.
Curious about your Enneagram type? Here’s a quick overview of the 9 Types. I know reading through these descriptions can be confusing. So save yourself from second-guessing and figure out your type with the help of our online test.