Enneagram Type 3 In Stress + Coping Mechanisms

25 August 2023

Imagine a peacock in full display on a rainy day. That’s pretty much the picture of Enneagram Type 3 in stress. These ambitious, lively goal-getters are used to winning without exerting any special effort.

But what happens when the victory is out of reach, and they have to face the cruel reality of not always being the best at everything? This article covers this and much more about Enneagram 3 in stress and growth. Let's hop right in!

Enneagram Type 3: Normal Circumstances

Attractive and energetic Threes enjoy being in the limelight. They know how to make an impression and use their charm to pave their way to success, which is the most important thing in their lives. Ambitious and hardworking, they strive to be the best at everything they do.

Threes’ sense of self-worth is based on their achievements, which is why they are so ardent about leaving an impression of a successful person. They are often social chameleons and excellent communicators who adapt effortlessly to different environments. Image and status matter to them deeply, and they work hard to earn the desired reputation.

However, they tend to neglect their own needs and forget their authentic aspirations on their way to success, as winning seems more important than anything to them.

When they are content with their accomplishments, Threes are irresistibly charming, seductive, and playful. Their energy and charisma make them natural leaders. Swift like an arrow and full of initiative and enthusiasm, they thrive in corporate environments that support their competitive spirit.

How Enneagram Type 3 Acts When Stressed Out

The first instinctive reaction of the Achiever to stress is to work even harder than they usually do. They become obsessed with productivity and results and stubbornly push themselves too much while making lots of hasty decisions along the way.

Such behavior inevitably leads to burnout and complete exhaustion of their resources. As they feel their energy is depleting, they become anxious, restless, and impulsive. The fear of failing others’ expectations drives them to make completely irrational moves.

They begin to see rivals in everyone, and that’s how the excruciating competition starts. The more success seems out of reach, the stronger they feel the need to compare themselves to others, desperately trying to maintain some sense of personal worth and self-respect.

Finally, when they are completely drained, they feel a strong urge to hide from the world. Showing vulnerability to them is like declaring defeat; nothing depresses them more. Faced with failure, they become apathetic. Life loses its sense for them, and they find it hard to find the motivation to do anything.

This is how Enneagram 3, in times of stress, ultimately starts to take on the traits of an unhealthy Type Nine. They become passive observers and procrastinate making decisions as fear of failure blocks their vital energy.

What Are Enneagram Type 3 Stress Triggers?

In some circumstances commonly regarded as stressful, Threes may appear to have an incredible capacity for resilience. However, in other circumstances that are much lower on the stress scale, Threes may become completely stressed out. That’s because they react dramatically only to specific stress triggers, which include:

#1. Not Making Enough Progress

However easygoing and relaxed they may seem, Threes always have their agenda. They are good at organizing and strategizing and usually have a realistic perspective of what needs to be done to get results. So, they begin to panic inside when they do everything according to their plan, and the progress is still slow or completely missing.

The thing is, there are no small and big battles for a Three. They simply have to win every time at everything to feel good about themselves. Even the slightest failure will make them question their worth and the point of life.

#2. Being Surrounded by Ambitionless People

The Achiever is the type of person who will find a way to advance and reach a leading position in every job you put them in. It doesn’t matter whether they like the job or not; being the best is imperative. For them, it is easier to be successful at something they don’t like than to fail at something they do.

So, when they come into contact with ambitionless people, they feel confused and constrained. They can’t understand how someone can not want to be successful since they believe success is what defines them.

#3. Having Their Reputation Ruined

Their reputation is just as important to them as their success—maybe a tad more important, even. Being seen as a failure equals being unworthy of love and respect to them, so anything that threatens their public image, which they have curated so carefully, is a huge stress trigger.

They hide parts of themselves that they deem to be flawed, so anything that exposes the fact that they are vulnerable makes them feel as though they are in danger. They want to believe they are strong and untouchable, and that image is hard to maintain.

So, when they perceive their reputation is at stake, they may emphasize their achievements, intensify their charm to win people over, and eventually become defensive.

#4. Being Criticized and Scrutinized

Threes’ need for social approval is one of their most prominent needs. So, the lack of social approval, especially when it comes in the form of open criticism, set off all their alarms. They may avoid acknowledging their mistakes to protect the image of perfection they curate, shift the blame on others, and become overly defensive.

Even well-intentioned criticism makes them feel vulnerable, inadequate, and undeserving of respect and love, so they try hard to avoid it at all costs. This leads to avoidant behavior, manipulation, and similar tactics for deflecting attention from the criticism.

#5. Losing Control

For Threes, it feels natural to be in charge, which requires being in control of the situation at all times. So, losing control is especially challenging for them, as it threatens their public image, their goals, and their sense of competence.

In an attempt to regain control, they will become overly competitive, anxious, and overcommitted. They will try hard to project an image of confidence to compensate for the insecurity they feel while pushing others to work just as hard to ensure their goals are met.

#6. Feeling Insignificant

Feeling insignificant is unbearable for Achievers as their entire self-esteem is based on how important they are in their environment and how others perceive them. It challenges their sense of self-worth, and they react strongly to it by overcompensating for the attention they lack.

So, they will employ all their charm and energy to draw attention, impress others, and earn the recognition they need to feel good about themselves. In doing so, they may exaggerate their achievements and act too competitively, believing that the only thing that makes them worthy of love and attention is their success.

#7. Showing Vulnerability

Finally, there’s nothing more painful for a Three than facing their own vulnerability. They honestly believe that they have to be strong all the time and that being vulnerable is the same as being weak.

Therefore, these otherwise cheerful and energetic social butterflies will withdraw and isolate when they feel too sensitive and exposed. Maintaining an image of strength and competence is essential for their well-being, and they will do anything to preserve it.

How Should Enneagram Threes Deal With Stress

As one of the Enneatypes who are most prone to burnout, it is essential for a Three to become aware of their stress sources and learn tactics to alleviate stress. They typically refuse to change their behavior until they get a wake-up call in the form of a broken relationship, a physical illness, or some other radical disturbance.

So, here are some tips and tactics that should become routine in a Three’s life to prevent the consequences of stress and neutralize its sources.

#1. Have More Empathy

It is difficult to empathize with others if we have never experienced the benefits of empathy. Threes usually lived surrounded by people who projected high expectations on them, disregarding their emotional needs. Therefore, they find it hard to accept and recognize the importance of emotions, both their own and others.

By learning to acknowledge their own emotional needs and practicing self-compassion, Threes will also learn to be more compassionate toward others and consequently build more quality relationships.

#2. Increase Your Self-Awareness

While they seem very confident and self-aware, Threes actually have trouble acknowledging their emotionality. It is hard for them to incorporate their emotional needs into their self-image.

For that reason, it is essential for them to learn about emotional literacy and decontaminate their views of emotions as signs of weakness. This lesson is very challenging for them because they can’t learn it on their own but only through healing relationships with others.

#3. Nurture Close Relationships

For Threes, becoming close to someone feels very dangerous. This is why an Enneagram Three in love faces many challenges, despite their generally open and easygoing nature.

For that reason, they choose to be close either to people who are very similar to them in the sense that they also have trouble showing vulnerability or to people who they don’t see as a threat in any way.

However, in every relationship, there comes a moment when it’s time to open up. Threes tend to avoid this moment or fake it, cutting themselves off from the most significant sources of support and protection.

So, they need to be brave, honest, and vulnerable with people they trust, as this will help them better understand themselves and their emotional side.

#4. Take Regular Breaks

As they are constantly pushing themselves to succeed and be the best, Threes ignore the signals of tiredness their bodies send. Because they are often detached from their authentic needs, they must consciously plan breaks and rest to prevent burnout and protect their well-being.

This usually requires them to thoroughly examine and change their beliefs about rest. They are typically convinced that they can only relax when they have accomplished their goals. However, they need to understand that they can only give their best if they have enough rest.

How to Help an Enneagram 3 in Stress?

As a Three’s friend, you mustn’t encourage their perfectionism but normalize making mistakes. That’s the first and most important trap you have to avoid when comforting the Achiever. Don’t tell them that next time they’ll be better, that they should just practice more, and similar.

They need to hear that it is ok to fail and that they will be just as loved regardless of their mistakes and failures. Remind them of their qualities that have nothing to do with their achievements. They need to be constantly reminded that success does not define their worth as human beings.

Encourage them to share how they feel and never mock or belittle them for being vulnerable. Offer them a safe space to show their emotional side without fearing they’ll be rejected for being weak. Inspire them to embrace their authentic needs instead of feeding their pursuit for public approval.

Key Takeaways

The charismatic Threes are both stronger and weaker than they seem. On the one hand, they show great resilience under pressure, and on the other, they feel extremely sensitive in situations that are not objectively threatening. That’s because, essentially, they have trouble accepting their vulnerability.

Their biggest stress triggers are related to their fear of failure. To overcome that fear and get better at dealing with stress, they need to realize that their worth can never be reduced to the amount of success they achieve. In doing so, they need the support of the people they love.