Today, we are going to explore the Enneagram Type 3, called The Achiever, and how we can use this personality type for our characters.
THE SOCIAL CHAMELEON
One of the most common things people say about the Myers-Briggs INFJ personality type is that they’re social chameleons. Because INFJs are so good at reading and understanding body language, they ‘transform’ to make other people comfortable, literally putting themselves in other people’s shoes. I can testify this myself, as I am an INFJ.
Now, what does this have to do with Type Threes, you ask? The Type Three personality type is very similar in their chameleon-like way. Only they camouflage themselves for a completely different reason. While INFJs change to sympathize with people, Type Threes change to gain others’ approval.
A Type Three’s greatest desire is to be accepted and be impressive. So, they do what they can to climb the social ladder, even if that means pretending to be someone they’re not. Unlike Type Twos, they are not considered part of the “heart” triangle, but part of the “head triangle” as they tend to put their feelings in a box, like Type Ones. This doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings or are ‘stuffy’ as Type Ones, but they do tend to lead with their thoughts instead of their feelings, putting their feelings aside so as to achieve the higher goal.
So, as described by The Enneagram Institute, Type Threes:
“…want success because they are afraid of disappearing into a chasm of emptiness and worthlessness: without the increased attention and feeling of accomplishment which success usually brings, Threes fear that they are nobody and have no value.”
THE FEAR OF BEING WORTHLESS
Like all personality types, Type Threes have a core fear. And their core fear is being seen as worthless. Because they put so much value on what others think of them, they tend to be afraid of not being accepted.
This is an excellent angle to play with when writing your character’s arc. They could start off as being seriously competative and driven to succeed for fear of being worthless, then learn at the end that while wanting to succeed is okay, they can accept themselves for who they are and don’t have to put on a mask.
For Type Threes, their “deadliest sin” or “vice” is deceit. As described earlier, Type Threes put on a “mask” so to speak, as a way of climbing up the ladder to success. Because of this, they can become deceitful, lying to those close to them or pretending to be someone different for the sake of being worthy in the eyes of others. Coupling this with their constant fear of worthlessness, this can be integrated into your character’s arc, and also add excellent conflict between characters.
A STRONG ANTAGONIST
At their best, Threes are “Self-accepting, inner-directed, and authentic, everything they seem to be. Modest and charitable, self-deprecatory humor and fullness of heart emerge. Gentle and benevolent.” In short, instead of pretending to be confident and comfortable with who they are, they really are confident and comfortable.
But, at their most unhealthy level, they can “Become vindictive, attempting to ruin others’ happiness. Relentless, obsessive about destroying whatever reminds them of their own shortcomings and failures. Psychopathic behavior(!). Generally corresponds to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”
A Three at their most unhealthy level can make an excellent antagonist. However, there would have to be some sort of backstory (not necessarily in your novel, but written just in case) as to how the antagonist became like this in the first place. What happened to this antagonist that they became vindictive toward the protagonist? It’s important to intigrate a reason into your antagonist’s behavior, otherwise, he/she will come off as shallow and annoying.
For example, in my WIP (work in progress), my antagonist is a Type Three. He is very successful and has endeared himself to those around him by putting on multiple masks, depending on whom he is interacting with. To the people, he is benevolent and kind. To the soldiers, he’s strong and skilled, a warrior to be feared. The antagonist’s magical abilities also coincide with his personality, making him able to manipulate those around him.
What made him like this? A large, wounding event in his past that made him believe he was worthless. So, he climbed the ladder of success, not caring who he stepped on in the process, and ultimately went through a negative character arc. How does this tie into the protagonist? The protagonist is a constant reminder of his failures, and so, because unhealthy Type Threes destroy all that remind them of their failures and shortcomings, the antagonist tries to destroy the protagonist.
While my antagonist’s wounding event doesn’t tie in directly with the protagonist, having it do so will make things all the more interesting and might even add a unique angle to the story.
TYPE THREES IN FICTION
Type Threes seem to be very popular as protagonists in fiction. Their need to be accepted and fear of being worthless make up two of the world’s most common needs and fears. Though Type Threes in fiction tend to be female, I can think of one male Type Three protagonist – William Reynolds from the film Beyond the Mask (a movie I highly recommend you watch if you like fire and explosions! And indie movies that are amazingly good.)
Another Type Three can I think of is Thomas Fawkes from Nadine Brande’s novel Fawkes (a highly recommended read!)
Threes are highly successful people that can be relied on to “get the job done.” They are usually well-educated and work oriented, and achieve much in life. Very many famous people have been and are Type Threes (including the award-winning author and blogger, K. M. Weiland). While Type Threes work best in fiction as villians or heroes, they can also be used as the mentor or even the love interest. It all depends on what kind of story you want to tell, and with what kind of people you want to tell it.
Readers, tell me what you think! How else can you use the Type Three personality for your characters? How else could this type be used for both villains and heroes?
Sources – The Enneagram Institute