As an Enneagram 3, have you ever yearned for a deeper authenticity and the courage to show up in a different way - whether personally or professionally? Have you wished for deeper intimacy and found yourself pushing away the very thing you desire? Have you wished you could drop the self-defensiveness that seems to creep in, keeping real connection at arms length? Are you not allowing yourself to be truly happy and satisfied with your life?
Being an Enneagram 3, I’ve seen how my Three-ness undermines my desire for deeper connection with others and for feeling truly valuable. I’ve seen how it can sabotage my authentic expression, even when that is what I want the most. And I’ve also experienced how to change it.
Before you read on, close your eyes, take a deep breath and see if you can access self-compassion. We are all on this journey of being a fallible human. You have a choice to either use these hard truths as a way to beat yourself up, or use them as a way to access more of your authentic self. Self-compassion is the key to the latter.
If you are an Enneagram 3 you may already know that self-deception is your number one defense mechanism. Why do we continuously hide our own truth from ourselves? Simply put, because we are afraid. Afraid that people won’t find us valuable, won’t admire us, won’t approve of us. We’re afraid that we will be judged, criticized and that we will lose favor with people who mean something to us - whether those are people we look up to or are somehow dependent on. We are afraid we will be rejected or abandoned by the people we value the most. So we project an image that others will admire and hide the rest. We do this because our egos believe it is the best strategy for self-preservation.
But it’s all a trap. You will never truly have what you desire unless you are willing to be unwaveringly honest with yourself and with the people in your life. In fact, you will never be able to fully claim your most prized gift - authenticity - unless you are willing to let go of the fear and step into the truth - first with yourself and then with others. It’s not easy; but the rewards are huge.
Enneagram 3’s are known for being logical rather than emotional. But this in itself is a self-deception. The truth is that Enneagram 3’s compartmentalize their emotions and overlay logic on top so they don’t have to feel their feelings. This works to keep them safe. It also creates a chasm between the Enneagram 3 and deeper levels of intimacy with anyone else.
Underneath all of that logical and non-feeling exterior lies a sensitive heart that was quite likely hurt a lot in childhood. And the childhood message you received was that kind of sensitivity is risky business and you just being you isn’t enough. So you went about trying to prove that you were the hardest worker, the best at whatever you thought other people valued, and you kept pointing back to your accomplishments to prove that you had value to the people who mattered. But you lost access to your heart, truth and to your real value along the way.
The good news is you can choose to step into owning your truth now. But first, let’s uncover the lies you are telling yourself and decode them so you know what is really going on.
“I don’t care” or “It doesn’t matter” - if you find yourself saying this, likely it DOES matter and you DO care. I’m not talking about the little things like what to have for dinner. I’m talking about the big things, the emotional things, the things other people would think you must have an opinion on - so why are you saying you have none?
There are three reasons this deception comes up:
You don’t want to be attached to an outcome because you’re afraid you won’t get what you really want.
You’re afraid of what others will think of you for wanting what you want.
You have a ton of judgment about yourself for wanting what you want.
All of these ensure the same thing: You won’t get what you want, because you won’t ask for it. If you are an Enneagram 2 with an Enneagram 3 wing - this applies to you too. Look for this one not only out loud, but in your self-talk. And then get clear about what you want and communicate it.
“I don’t know how I feel.” - This is a truth/not truth. You probably don’t know how you feel because at some level you already know that you don’t feel good about whatever is going on. You likely don’t want to say how you really feel out loud because telling the unfiltered truth will have consequences. As an Enneagram 3, you are a master at dodging consequences and you do that by spinning the truth so that it is palatable to others. All humans manipulate to get their needs met and this is the primary manipulation tactic Enneagram 3’s employ. So if you really don’t know how you feel - that’s your clue that something is up and you need to dig deeper. And then you need to talk about what you find down there in the dark recesses of your heart.
“I just need to focus on work.” (ie. If I concentrate on work then everything else will go away) - Yeah, this doesn’t work. Oh, it works for a while. It works in the moment for sure. It even feels good to sink into robot mode and not feel anything except productive. And I mean not feel anything - like hunger, thirst, needing to pee, that ache in your shoulders from holding them in tension for hours. Because what happens for you is that when you decide to shut off feelings, you go ALL THE WAY and that means feelings in your body too. And then the moment you stop concentrating on work, it all comes rushing back and you find yourself hangry and exhausted and certainly not available for that emotional conversation you’ve been putting off with your spouse. Work can wait - make yourself available to your heart and body now. And if there isn’t anything you are explicitly avoiding, be sure to check in with your body every 30 minutes to see if it needs anything - you will be happier and healthier for having done so.
Ok, yeah I said three lies but here are two bonus lies.
“If I was supposed to follow that path, I would be naturally good at it.” This one is funny. It comes from the fact that Enneagram 3’s tend to be naturally good at a lot and they tend to achieve a lot (hence Achiever.) They have determination and perseverance when going after goals - especially if they are goals that others find valuable. The dark, lesser understood aspect of Enneagram 3’s is that they don’t like to fail, particularly publicly and will avoid doing things that they may fail at. In fact, if there was ever a quote the captures this aspect of the Enneagram 3 it is: “Try and if you don’t succeed, erase all evidence that you ever tried.” Hah! If you are an Enneagram 3, you already know all about this.
This self-deception is likely covering something that would truly stretch your comfort zone and be personally gratifying as a result. The trap of believing you should only do the things you are naturally good at will keep you from going after the very things that may be most meaningful to you. Oh and by the way - if you are naturally good at it, it’s probably too easy. So put that competitive spirit to good use and go after what’s hard.
“If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like/love/value me.” I saved this one for last because, to me, it is the saddest self-deception. Here’s the real: if people don’t like, love or value the real you, you’re probably better off without them. And this isn’t an excuse to cut a bunch of people out of your life because you suspect they won’t have your back. This is a challenge to drop your assumptions and find out; to show up authentically and see what happens. In my own letting go of this self-deception, I’ve been delighted with the results. In fact, it alone has given me access to the deepest relationships of my life.
As an Enneagram 3, my biggest challenge has been radical honesty with myself and others because of the fear of being rejected or abandoned. Here’s what I know for sure, as one friend recently put it - “The fear is just a paper tiger. It looks scary and like it has teeth, but if you stand up to it, it will just fall down.”
Your authentic life is one choice away. Choose to stand in the face of your fear and speak your truth - first to yourself and then to others. Trust me, it's worth it.
This article was originally featured on LinkedIn on February 18, 2020.