Let’s talk about the movers and shakers of the Enneagram, shall we? This misidentification is extremely common, especially among men– I personally have witnessed the phenomenon more times than I have fingers. Yes, for real.
Even the words “Achiever” and “Challenger” are somewhat kindred in meaning. Both 3s and 8s are people who get things done, and expect the same of others. Both types come across as confident, self focused and in control, they tend to be blessed with leadership skills and presence. This, however, is where we reach a decided fork in the road. On the inside (which few truly see, for either type), Achievers and Challengers are completely different animals.
While 3s and 8s both like to win, this is with very different motivations. Achievers live to win (and win others over), be the best and succeed because they believe they are unworthy of love if they don’t. Challengers on the other hand, win only as a side effect of their focus on survival, by dominating anything that (they perceive) would threaten them. 3s live to gain approval from others, 8s live to have absolute power and generally don’t care about approval or “likeability”.
Other marked differences are these: 3s are image focused people, who take care with their presentation to others– in appearance/style, in word, in reputation. Conversely, 8s are body/action focused individuals who generally give little thought to how they are perceived. Achievers are people oriented and desire approval, Challengers are independent and desire power. 3s achieve success often by charming and winning over others, while 8s achieve success by controlling the environment and sadistically leveling the playing field. Both types are “self serving”; 3s through manipulation, deception and charm, 8s through domination, intimidation and force of will. Achievers are often called “chameleons” as they are great adaptors to what others desire from them– this may also explain part of why many male 3s mistake themselves for 8s.
One fascinating comparison that I sometimes use when discussing the differences between these types: Oral Narcissism vs. Phallic Narcissism. 3s have the tendencies of Oral Narcissism– verbally self promoting and giving voice to their many achievements. Achievers can be quite the “name droppers” in this way, hoping to gain the admiration of others and be valued for their achievements. 8s on the other hand exemplify traits of Phallic Narcissism, choosing to demonstrate or show their superiority rather than tell about it. In this way, Challengers can be perceived as bullies or thugs because they dominate through action, in their attempt to survive those that might try to control them.
As aforementioned, because of their loss of true identity, 3’s are much more prone to this mistype than 8’s. For more information on this topic, check out the Enneagram Institute’s overview of the differences between any two types.
As with any type misidentification, one of the best tools to determine accuracy are the other components of type: integration when health focused, disintegration when under stress, and even wings. 3 and 8 have very different health journeys, and stress points. You can read more about them here: 3 | 8.
Have questions? Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tune in next time for my misidentification post on types 2 and 6.