After years of thinking I was a Type 4 on the Enneagram, I recently realized that I’m a Type 3. Okay, technically I am SX/SP 3w4.
At first, there was the excitement of recognition. The feeling of, “This is so me, it’s crazy I didn’t realize it!”
But then there was also the dread. I would be lying if I said that I did not suffer from a brief identity crisis. Realizing that I’m a Type 3 was like discovering that the evil I’ve worked so hard to vanquish is actually within.
When I think of Enneagram Type 3s, I think of influencers, celebrities, and entrepreneurs who are so obsessed with image and status that they get into trouble. They are addicted to likes and are disconnected from themselves. This isn’t appealing to me. As a result, I’ve been ignoring much of what makes me a Type 3, even the things that are good.
But I’ve realized that no matter how much I deny it, the truth remains. I care about achievement, and I want to be the boss–mainly of myself. I am all into entrepreneurship. I care about doing things in style, looking good, and working hard on my skills. I will stubbornly stick to my goals and dreams, and I
love attention will gladly accept the praise that comes my way. I also enjoy encouraging others to do and become their best.
Awkward to admit, but true.
So How Did I Find Out My True Enneagram Type?
I’ve been doing a lot of work with my childhood wounds over the past year. Thanks to the book How to Overcome Your Childhood by The School of Life, I was made painfully aware of my wound related to over-achievement. This blind spot was so huge, that I suspect I’m working with elements of the shadow of my personality type (For more about the INFP shadow, check out this article. And for more about ENFJs, Truity has a nice overview).
Then a few weeks ago I came across the book Enneagram Empowerment: Discover Your Personality Type and Unlock Your Potential by Laura Miltenberger. This book gives a nice, full overview of the Enneagram, including subtypes and centers of intelligence. It was the big-picture view of this book that helped me finally figure out my type.
I thought that Type 4 was my core personality type because I identified with the feelings of being misunderstood. I also care about being unique and doing things in ways that may be different but are true to me.
When looking at the motives of Enneagram Type 4s, my mind goes back to when I was a teenager and young adult. The sensation of feeling misunderstood followed me everywhere back then.
However, when I looked at the motives of Type Threes, it was like my entire life flashed before my eyes, not simply parts of it. My need for admiration has been a part of my life forever. Even when I was struggling with feeling misunderstood as a teen, instead of trying to be more authentic or unique like a core Type 4, I put most of my efforts into trying to be more impressive, like a Type 3. When being impressive didn’t pan out, then I would shift to trying to be more unique.
More recently, as I’ve been facing some health problems that limit what I can do, I’ve struggled with not calling myself a loser and a failure for not being able to do as much. I also tend to worry that others in my life will forget about me. And most of all, although I am fully in touch with my pain, it’s been a struggle to allow others to see that I’m in pain. I can’t stand having others see me when I’m down. These are common fears for Type 3s.
So taking all of this information together, I realized my real enneagram type.
Do I feel it was a waste thinking that I was a Type 4 for so long? Not at all. Thanks to believing that, I did the work of facing my feelings of being misunderstood until it was no longer a major part of my life. From that learned what I needed to face my Type 3 pitfalls.
So not having my exact type was more of an unexpected gift than a problem.
INFP and Type 3 Overlaps?
Being a Type 3w4 has some interesting and unusual overlaps with the INFP personality type.
Type 3s in general tend to struggle with deception because they are always trying to project a certain image of themselves to win the praise of others. However, because of my 4 wing and INFP personality type, my mind is quick to point out when I’m being fake. Sometimes it catches me before I slip into fakeness, and other times it berates me later for doing something unauthentic. This back and forth can cause a lot of emotional turbulence.
There have been moments where my Type 3 side has embarrassed me so much, that I regret that it’s there. That’s why I’m very careful not to do things that feel icky to me, especially when it comes to sharing my work. I also can’t do the slick, extremely commercialized stuff that other Type 3s do because it feels so unreal, and I will end up disgusted with myself. But although I’m careful, I still sometimes do and say Type 3ish stuff that makes me cringe.
Being an SX/SP 3 with a 4 wing fits perfectly with being an introvert. I’m less competitive and assertive than most Type 3s. I value one-on-one connections. I enjoy spotlighting the impressive works of others. Also, I’m more focused on attracting things than chasing them.
For a while, I did struggle with having unfulfilling friendships. The mask I wore to attract friends kept people disconnected from who I truly was. I felt like my “friends” never really knew me. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more authentic, so I’m no longer sending out the wrong signals and creating those unfulfilling friendships.
The inherent charm of the Enneagram Type 3 lines up well with the use of extraverted intuition (Ne). ENFPs primarily use extraverted intuition, and they’re known for being magnetic and easily liked. For INFPs, extraverted intuition is their secondary function, and when it’s tapped into, INFPs display a quirky kind of charm as well.
The most difficult thing about being a Type 3 INFP is that I often fall into the grip of my inferior function due to all the striving. The Enneagram Type 3 tends to correspond with the extraversion and thinking preferences of the MBTI. As an INFP, extraverted thinking (Te) is my inferior function.
But since extraverted thinking is my inferior function, I’m attracted to finding effective shortcuts for accomplishing things much like the typical Enneagram Type 3, since I don’t want to waste a lot of effort on Te stuff.
Somehow I came to believe that wearing the mask of an extraverted thinker and relentlessly striving is the way to win admiration and love. It’s a message from my childhood and society. I feel that in some ways I’m more fragile than Type 3s that have different MBTI types since I’m more prone to burnout due to overuse of extraverted thinking.
However, the amazing thing is that being a healthy INFP means being a healthy Enneagram Type 3. A healthy INFP is in touch with introverted feeling. They are deeply aware of their values and what’s important to them. This makes INFPs authentic.
To be a healthy Type 3, it’s essential to get in touch with your authenticity. This is because Type 3s can get so used to shaping the way they appear to please others, that they lose touch with who they are and what they want. As a result, Type 3s risk coming across as shallow. On top of that, they will never feel successful enough, beautiful enough, or famous enough because they’ve never taken the time to think about what success is to them. As long as Type 3s live by seeing themselves through the eyes of others, they will never feel like they are enough.
As a side note, since I’m a Type 3 INFP, I must learn to control my workaholic tendencies and sink into using introverted sensing. Just like with introverted feeling, introverted sensing involves slowing down. Introverted sensing is also about taking time to reflect, learning from the past, and working with the mind-body connection. I have to buckle down on using my top three functions (Fi, Ne, Si), so I don’t get weighed down by my inferior function (Te).
Using Type 3 Abilities for the Greater Good
Sometimes when I read descriptions of Enneagram Type 3s, I wonder what exactly are they good for, other than chasing beauty, chasing money, and being tabloid fodder.
Well, if Type 3s took a break from building their self-image and turned their attention towards being of service, here’s what I think they’ll be good at:
- Lovingly motivating and inspiring others to be their best and to achieve.
- Assisting others with overcoming obstacles by creatively sharing how they have overcome their obstacles.
- Bringing out the natural beauty and charm of others. Helping people to see who they can become.
Type 3s have the skills and the drive to make their dreams come true and can show others how to do the same.
So far, I’ve only come across one example of a character who is very likely an INFP 3w4. I know this example is nerdy and niche, but I’m putting it out there.
The character is Mikoto Mikoshiba from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. This is a manga, and the anime was available on Netflix for a while.
Mikoshiba is a shy, sensitive, introverted otaku who works hard to project a flashy, flirty persona, but gets easily embarrassed by his own displays of overconfidence. This mix of opposing characteristics is very endearing, and not only does it make me laugh, but I get where this character is coming from.
He shines the most when he brings out the beauty of the work of others. When helping Nozaki with creating his comic, Mikoshiba draws the flowers around the comic characters to bring out their charm.
Coming to grips with my Enneagram personality type is going to take some time.
I want to get to a place where I’m not scared of myself and can relax into the things that make me a Type 3. Rejecting these parts of myself made me not take my workaholic nature as seriously as I should have, and I missed out on doing some essential self-care. Also, I tend to fear appearing confident. As if that is something wrong.
As an INFP Enneagram 3, I need to regularly slow down to notice what I want, even when I’m feeling the temptation to mold myself into what others want. I need to always stay in touch with what feels like me.
It is weird getting used to the idea that I don’t need to achieve to receive love, but I don’t need to shrink myself down either. I’m fine the way I am when I’m not striving but also when I’m not holding back.
Lastly, I need to feel free to laugh at myself. Honestly, being an INFP Enneagram Type 3w4 is weird, especially with the bouncing between overconfidence, humiliation, striving, and crashing. I’m deeply grateful that being an INFP gives me the capacity to deeply introspect and to tease apart the way I operate in the world and how I feel.
I think this all highlights how important it is that we hold on to our concept of self lightly because sometimes, we’re not exactly who we think are. Sometimes we are who we deny being.
And that can be thrilling.
This post is way more like a public journal entry than most of my posts. I hope it makes sense! Any thoughts ? ✨ Feel free to let me know what you think via chat or email!