Parenting THE ACHIEVER
The performer isn’t a showperson, per se, but they are Constantly conscious of other people’s perception of them. Their motivation is to always appear successful to those around them. They are otherwise known as the enneagram three!
Do you have someone in your life who finds it hard to let others to see their flaws? Keen to project a winning image? They might not actively show off, but they do love their accomplishments to show well and will work hard to avoid exposing areas where they’re failing or appearing to underachieve. Being and appearing efficient and productive and high-achieving is key. They like to make a good impression at all times. And they often can, as they have great strengths. These include:
...what could possibly go wrong?
In their exuberance to be the shining example of a total winner, they also have their shadow side – their tipping point.
They are so motivated to be admired, they find it hard to believe that they would be loveable if their flaws and faults and failures were seen.
So in their desire to showcase their very best and hide any inefficiencies, they can convince themselves of their flawlessness. As our American friends would say –
they drink their own cool-aid!
And so their flaw becomes deceit. It’s not that they’re abject liars, it’s more that there’s some masking of authenticity if it’s in any way attached to something less than brilliant. Admiration comes before authenticity if they’re not careful.
If you’ve been tracking my podcasts you may think, isn’t that similar to the one and the eight. And thus we need to get this far to really bed in the key factor of the enneagram; the motivation behind the behaviour. Some things look the same but are very different. Someone might buy you a drink because they want something from you, or because they’re generous or because it makes them feel good. It all looks like a drink to everyone else, but very differently motivated. The eight certainly shares some of those strengths I’ve just listed. But they’re not looking for admiration, they’re avoiding being seen as weak. The enneagram one can also have all of the above, but their benchmarks are not to do with the way the world perceives them, they’re all about their own personal expectations – that inner critic. Do go back and compare.
So the performer is a busy person. You know that expression – if you want to get a job done, give it to a busy person. Here they are. Juggling beautifully. Meeting needs, excelling in their areas, class
monitor, team captain, ticking boxes with seeming ease and quietly loving it when noticed for their achievements.
Sound like your child?
Sound like you?
Sound like anyone you know?
They won’t be all of these, but if a high percentage correlates to the person you have in mind, they could well be a type 3; The achiever. And we need this type of person. If your child has these characteristics you may have noticed that they don’t need chivvying along. They get the job done. they inspire others to do well.
Striving to attain
Andre Agassi Taylor Swift Tom cruise Are considered to be among the famous performers.
Threes have got it all together. If they’re in healthy balance and not stressed, they’re supportive, enthusiastic and interested in your goals and dreams and will help you on your way.
If they’re unthreatened by you, they’ll lead or support you well. You can depend on them and they’re uplifting and energising to be around.
But if type 3s haven’t quite learned to use their strengths well, or been guided by wise parents, they can also be hard work at times. In their unhealthy places, they’re competing with people around them who also seem to be winners. They’re impatient with people in their team if they’re not keeping a pace (whether that’s family, sports or work). And they can be restless because they’re antenna is up for the opportunities to advance. That could be rolling with the important people or showcasing their best.
I was in a team with someone who I think might have been an enneagram type three. Early in most conversations you would learn how many air-miles he’d clocked up that month, or how many emails he got a day, a minute! Sometimes I felt talked at rather than with, and that I was being filled with data about his high achievements. That’s a classic unhealthy 3, who’s either in stress mode, or who hasn’t been honed by a wise parent. I daresay it was all true. But it was hard to feel connection. Whilst he might have left the conversation feeling that I was clocking his high-status, I was actually sympathetic for what looked more like insecurity. The little success broadcasts were a block to authentic conversation. I felt I was meeting his curated profile, rather than the real person.
And so it can be with 3s. As a parent, if I had a child with those wonderful strengths and hidden insecurities, I would want to help them to know that they are not the product of their output, so that I could encourage their superpowers and soften their propensity to hide their true selves, including their imperfections. We all have them. That’s why we as parents can be so positively influential in knowing our children’s' strengths and weakness. And when we understand their motivations through the lens of the enneagram, we can also heal the mis-messages they will have picked up in childhood….
"You are what you do"
What parent would ever say that to a child? Well, no parent on purpose. But childhood is a place of hidden messages. This isn’t poor parenting. It’s just childish interpretation.
I could say to you, "well done", "you’re the best", "you’re incredible", "I knew you had this in you"
You might hear, "Well done me", "Job well done", Glad she’s pleased.
...or you might hear, "I need you to be a winner", "Keep upping your game"
And you might think that in order to be valued you how to achieve.
I had a friend at school who always cried on sports day. It was guaranteed. Either she won the hurdles race, but her time wasn’t her personal best. Or she won and it was her personal best, but she could have done better. Even back in the naivety of childhood I sometimes had an inkling that the tears weren’t always personal disappointment, but perhaps a strong message to all of us that great as the win was, she was capable of greater.
Her parents were lovely. Great encouragers. I wonder what she was hearing.
Children can receive messages through positive affirmations, as well as through challenging feedback. They can also receive messages through celebrating their successes.
Perhaps you've told them optimistically that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. You have endless belief in them. While this is a positive message, how does it actually impact them?
Carol Dweck gained fame through her TED Talks where she discusses the messages we send our children when we proudly display their artwork on the fridge with great fanfare. By all means, continue to celebrate your children, but as a parent, it's important to listen to talks by Brene Brown or Carol Dweck on Growth Mindset. It will help you understand the importance of the messages we send to our children and how to frame them in a way that empowers them rather than hinders them.
So, if you’re recognising that you might have an "Achiever' among your children you can celebrate their effectiveness and competency and their ability to encourage others - and let’s look at 5 ways we can parent the performer…
These are great ways to parent in general, but they’re specifically powerful in parenting a child who may be a type 3 on the enneagram.
PARENTING THE ACHIEVER
1. Have healthy conversations about success. They're great dinner conversations. Ask them the question – what is success? Help them to see diverse answers for this. The world messages are not helpful at the moment. 30 seconds on social media will reinforce the metric for success to be winning – at money, at business, at likes, at sport. Think about what messages you’re inadvertently putting across. What have you linked success to? Maybe this is something you’ve given a lot of thought. If it’s not, check to see what answer you’d give, what messages you’ve been sending….
The dictionary definition is:
Success is the accomplishment of any aim or purpose.
What if that aim was to be a good neighbour
A kind friend
An empowerer of others – an encourager
Is that enough?
You don’t have to lead front and centre to be successful. Help them to define success for themselves and not just run with what they think they’ve heard from family, peers or the media.
And to know that success is a journey sometimes, not always a destination.
2. Help them to build a strong definition of themselves that isn’t attached to their output.
Notice and talk about their hidden features.
Their quieter qualities.
3. Create time and space for them to be comfortable with underachievement or failure.
Affirm the effort not their end result.
When they’ve had a test or been in a performance or sporting event, focus more on the training, effort and dedication, than the goals, numbers or wins.
They need to trust our unconditional love when they think they’ve failed or underperformed. That doesn’t mean tipping all our affirmations over them. But sitting with them in what they perceive to be loss or failure, accepting their feelings are genuine, but also letting them know that you don’t see them any differently when they feel they've underachieved.
4. Hone their underdog. They have an ability to encourage others, but get insecure if others are better than them. Help them to support others at the cost of personal impression. To affirm others, to build up siblings. To celebrate other people’s efforts.
5. Dare them to share their real selves with someone, even if it can’t be you. It might even be the family pet to start with or a soft-toy. But learning to be in front of someone, not only when they’re a shining success, but when someone else is, or when feel they’re a bit of a flop, will enforce that they are lovable, no matter what they do or don’t achieve.
Performers, enneagram threes can keep all their superpowers whilst also learning to be vulnerable and letting others shine in the very place they wanted to. Life’s a paradox!
Remember, that whilst I’m focussing on children, keep your antenna up for whether these charact eristics are strong in yourself or people that you know so whilst you can help your kids, you can also be compassionate to yourself or others with this fresh understanding.