The Achiever: The Need to Succeed



Welcome to part four of our series examining the nine types of the Enneagram Personality System.  Today we are discussing type three, the Achiever.  To catch up on previous Enneagram blog posts, follow this link  And to take a free version of the test and find out your type, go here.

Type three, the Achiever, is driven by the need for success and to be applauded for his achievements.  Threes at their best are driven, hard-working, capable, likable, savvy and optimistic.  However, they can also tend to be deceptive, vain, superficial, and overly competitive.  Perhaps more than any other type, the three is a chameleon, able to cultivate a public image of success and confidence while inwardly driven by the need to convince himself and others of his own value and worthiness.  So wide is the gap in fact between the three’s outward appearance and inner experience, that they actually are one of the most difficult types to know on a deeper level.  Their focus is almost entirely on the external world: on others’ perceptions of them, on their outward goals, and on the particular successes they have achieved  or wish to achieve, which affirm their self-esteem. Threes are often unaware of their own hidden need for love and affirmation and avoid fear at all cost.


Scarlett O’Hara, heroine of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, is an example of the Achiever. To her family and friends, she seems confident, attractive, light-hearted, and charming.  However, we as the reader have access to her inner thoughts.  We see the vanity and fear of failure that undergirds her outward behaviors, particularly her romantic endeavors.  Her love and desire for Ashley Wilkes is born almost entirely of a desire for status and also because his disinterest makes him an unsettling challenge to Scarlett’s self-confidence.  His eventual engagement to Melanie only serves to make Scarlett more obsessed with winning him through whatever means of deception or manipulation necessary:

By the time Scarlett had undressed and blown out the candle, her plan for tomorrow had worked itself out in every detail. From the moment she arrived at Twelve Oaks, she would be her gayest, most spirited self. No one would suspect that she had ever been downhearted because of Ashley and Melanie. And she would flirt with every man there. That would be cruel to Ashley, but it would make him yearn for her all the more. . . They would swarm around her like bees around a hive, and certainly Ashley would be drawn from Melanie to join the circle of her admirers. Then somehow she would maneuver to get a few minutes alone with him, away from the crowd. She hoped everything would work out that way, because it would be more difficult otherwise. But if Ashley didn’t make the first move, she would simply have to do it herself. . . .Why, by this time tomorrow night, she might be Mrs. Ashley Wilkes!


By the end of the story, Scarlett has been forced by war, grief, and heartbreak to confront her own feelings, especially how much she has come to depend on people, and the sadness and fear she feels at the thought of losing them.  Just as with any healthy and growing three, she begins to gain insight into her need for love and to accept some of her own flaws, especially how her actions have hurt others.  Scarlett’s journey toward health is one of embracing honesty.  All threes must go through a process of connecting with their emotions and embracing the more vulnerable side of themselves in order to develop empathy and the ability to connect with others.


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