Threes are defined by their desire to be significant and to distinguish themselves through their achievements. To others, Threes appear confident, ambitious and goal-oriented. They are unsure of their innate self-worth, and look for validation through their accomplishments.

Threes are typically very image-focused; it is important to them that others see them as successful.

Deepest Fear: Threes fear being insignificant or a failure. To cope with this fear, they look for ways to win in life, reassuring themselves that they are valuable.

Core Motivation: Type Threes are motivated by a need for attention and admiration. They strive to be successful and significant to avoid feeling worthless.

Key Personality Traits of the 3

  • Acutely aware of social niceties
  • Impressive range of accomplishments
  • Extremely busy and on the go
  • Jam-packed schedules and meetings
  • May have interests in improvisation or acting
  • Refined taste in outer appearance
  • Charismatic; makes good first impressions

How Rare are Enneagram 3s?

  • In a Truity study of more than 54,000 respondents, Type Threes were found to make up approximately 11% of the population. About 10% of women and 12% of men are Threes.

Enneagram Type 3 In Depth

Polished and sophisticated, Achievers have a particular taste for the nice things in life. They have the capacity for huge chunks of productivity to reach their goals and high standards. Their goal is to be remembered and appreciated for their discoveries and creations — to be the best.

Smart, ambitious and typically well-dressed, Achievers hit and exceed targets left and right. Their performance and dedication is admired by others and may even inspire them to take action.

Achievers typically have schedules chock-full of events and professional meetings to keep themselves busy and on the go.

At their best, Achievers tend to be confident, energetic and humble role models who inspire others. This type can be incredibly productive, even a “workaholic.” They tend to dress well and enjoy materials and experiences that project an image of wealth or success.

An unhealthy Three may appear obsessive, self-aggrandizing, and malicious. They may throw other people under the bus for their own advantage and appear untrustworthy.

Enneagram Threes are part of the “heart-based” triad of the Enneagram, along with Type Twos and Type Fours. This triad focuses on the emotion of grief and struggles with not feeling loveable as they are.

As children, this type most likely learned from an early age that achievement resulted in love and praise, so they established their identity on gaining attention in the form of success.

Threes seek to project a specific image of themselves and repress their internal feelings. This type may struggle to understand their own emotions as they focus instead on what they want to do and achieve.

Enneagram 3 Wings

3w2: The 3w2 Type is a Three that also resembles a Type Two in many ways. These Threes are outgoing, friendly and enjoy work that serves others. They enjoy entertaining and are gurus at making and maintaining strong social bonds. This type thrives in careers such as advertising, event planning, broadcasting, entertainment and entrepreneurship.

3w4: The 3w4 Type is a Three that shares many qualities of the Type Four. This type tends to be more introverted, serious and focused on work rather than social engagements and relationships. Three wing Fours are consistently working toward personal growth and professional success. This type can often be found in careers like law, marketing, business, politics and finance.

Core Values of Enneagram 3s

  • Recognition, accolades and status are the pinnacle of the Achiever’s lifestyle.
  • Threes are goal-driven, equipped with the Type A mentality and a relentless drive for self-improvement.
  • Productivity and achievement take the cake as the Achievers’ core values.
  • Getting things done is more important than too much planning and “wasted” time spent daydreaming.

How to Recognize an Enneagram 3

With refined tastes and an impressive drive to accomplish more, Achievers are socially adept conversationalists with a talent for beating deadlines and looking crazy-good while doing so.

They’re poised and intuitively know what to say during any situation. They can make friends with just about anyone. Achievers may have top-notch Instagram feeds, a seemingly ‘perfect’ life, and the charm to prove it.

Males and females often portray an image which aligns very strongly to their gender identity (i.e. masculine or feminine).

When asked about their five-year plan or career goals, they typically have a well-thought-out mental map of where they want to be.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Enneagram 3s

When they are healthy, Threes are driven, kind and willing to lend a helping hand. They can push organizations to new, uncharted territories with talent and ease. With a natural charisma and knack for recognizing the potential for their brilliant ideas, Achievers succeed in the workplace and beyond. They’re highly adaptable and can push themselves to inspire others and successfully reap the fruits of their labor and creativity. With a witty sense of humor and goofy side, they learn to take life with ease and prioritize their work-life balance. They’re organized, on top of their game and willing to take constructive feedback.

When they are average, Threes are busybodies, searching for new goals to accomplish and flashy ways to flaunt their expertise. They’re almost always on the go with new projects to finish and people to collaborate with. The looming fear of failure propels them to keep up their momentum and continue working hard. Social media becomes a place for constant comparison and expression, which can lead to excessive self-promotional content or arrogance. Achievers are dead-set on being first place in whatever they put their minds and hearts to—whether that’s a career goal or project.

When they are unhealthy, Threes become extremely jealous and view every interaction in terms of a competition and may be prone to one-upping others. They seek approval and reassurance from others. When this is not fulfilled, they begin to despair and shut down. The once driven go-getter becomes lazy, unfulfilled and prone to developing low self-esteem. Eventually, an Achiever may choose to reject their sense of self and may develop intense mood swings. Many Achievers report feeling like a “hollow shell” after years of curating an image of who they’d like to be. This can lead to major shifts in their career, relationship or lifestyle. At their worst, they backstab ruthlessly and destroy others’ reputations solely for their own benefit.

Growth Tips for Enneatype 3s

  • Slow down! It can be easy for a Three to get so busy that they can miss what is right in front of them or take the present moment for granted. Take time to relax and appreciate the moment every once in a while. (Yes, that includes turning off your smartphone!)
  • Practice active listening to connect more deeply with other people. Threes can be so focused on how they are being perceived by other people, that they miss opportunities to connect with others more deeply. By developing active listening habits, Threes can form deeper bonds with others.
  • Embrace vulnerability. Vulnerability can be scary for a Three, because it means allowing other people to see who you truly are, not just the side of you that you want them to see. However, Threes grow when they learn how to embrace vulnerability and act in ways that are more authentic to themselves.
  • Examine your thoughts and feelings. Threes can get so caught up in their image and achievements that they ignore their own emotions. Take time to ask yourself how you really feel about something. Do your words and actions match up with how you feel?
  • Practice mindfulness to be more present. Threes are always on-the-go. Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation can help you slow down and focus on the present. Non-competitive, single-player games can also help Threes focus on the moment without feeling the need to “win.”

Famous Enneagram Type 3s

  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Tony Robbins
  • Taylor Swift
  • Lady Gaga
  • Beyonce Knowles
  • Meghan Markle
  • Tom Cruise
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Muhammed Ali
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • “Don Draper” (Mad Men)
  • “Rachel Berry” (Glee)
  • “Margaery Tyrell” (Game of Thrones)
  • “Amy March” (Little Women)
  • “Leslie Knope” (Parks and Rec)

3s in Relationships

Our Enneagram Relationship content was co-developed with marital therapist-turned relationship coach Christa Hardin (MA)*.

Enneagram Type Threes focus on making sure they sparkle and shine for their partner. They keep a majority of their attention on creating an image of success in the eyes of others, especially their beloved partner at the beginning of a relationship.

When a Three isn’t healthy however or often in a later stage of a relationship, they can identify too strongly with their work and be overly focused on their “performances,” whether it be in the workroom, the bedroom or as a parent. They can erroneously believe they are what they do, and believe others see them this way as well. This may cause them to lose touch with who they really are, causing them to be like a chameleon in the relationship, identifying only with what their partner likes. This of course makes things more likely to fizzle out quickly since the Three may not have brought their real self to the relationship.

Though Threes are very heart-oriented within the Enneagram triad in that they feel the feelings of others, they can avoid their own feelings unconsciously, because avoiding emotions helps them to get things done. As they let go of the frantic pace and attempt to just “be” versus incessant “doing”, and as potential anxiety or depression rises because of this unfamiliar slower pacing, it’s important for a Three to find some relaxation techniques; their very own hobbies and fitness practices to balance themselves; and take care of their mental health.

If you love a Three, remember that though they show a rather tough facade, they do deeply desire a very close and loyal bond, specifically with you. This is because most of the time in the life of the Three, they either had an overabundance of nurture or their nurturing bonds were vastly lacking. In either case, they have a strong sense of lacking or need they are trying to fill in order to feel safe, and feel best when they know where their spouse is at all times and when their spouse is giving them strong attachment feedback.

When a Three doesn’t get their needs met from their partner, they may turn to a form of deceit to get needs met. However, when they begin to get self care and realize they are loved no matter what they do, they do an amazing job of speaking the truth in love and leading a fine team both at home and at work.

Encourage your Three to find their “inner beloved,” remind them to speak the truth in love, encourage them to apologize after being harsh, and try to give them space and permission to access sad feelings for a few minutes. Remember they need to feel safe before they can release the truth and improve their intimacy and closeness with you. Click here to find the Enneagram and Marriage Glow Pairing Guides so you can find tips for a type Three with each of the individual types!

*Christa Hardin (MA) has almost two decades of experience counseling and coaching couples. Christa hosts the popular Enneagram & Marriage Podcast. Christa uses the Enneagram and other great marriage tools to give couples deeper insight into how they connect with one another and glow brightly together in the world. For more, follow her on Instagram @enneagramandmarriage or visit her site: www.EnneagramandMarriage.com

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About the Author

Molly Owens is the CEO of Truity and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She founded Truity in 2012, with the goal of making quality personality tests more affordable and accessible. She has led the development of assessments based on Myers and Briggs' personality types, Holland Codes, the Big Five, DISC, and the Enneagram. She is an ENTP, a tireless brainstormer, and a wildly messy chef. Find Molly on Twitter at @mollmown.

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