Fear – the Great Achiever, and Embracing Imperfect Progress


I am a sucker for personality tests. I have always enjoyed learning the ins and outs of my personality. It is quite possibly my egotistical nature at work but who knows.

Recently I took a test called the enneagram and what I discovered was nothing new. However, as I read up on my personality type, something new began to happen inside me.

I began to embrace the real me.

I’m done shaming myself or letting others shame me. That excruciating part of my life is finally over. I think in large part I used to view my personality through a hyper critical lens. Almost as if my personality was some sort of birth defect that I was embarrassed to display – like a giant mole. This dissatisfaction of myself then turned outward and I would project this critical view on others. Judgment, holding people to an impossible standard and looking for negatives in people became second nature for me.

Now I have found a new way of living, I have a new outlook on life. This includes how I view myself. Now let me be clear this new view of myself also includes my awareness of my many character defects. These defects have come about through years of living in an extremely unhealthy way. So my personality became warped and instead of having a positive impact on my life and those around me, my personality turned inward, selfish and self-serving.

So I am not saying that my personality is perfect the way it is. I am fully aware of the defects of character that exist in my life. However, I am starting to make a distinction between the beauty inside me that God made in His image and the ugly process of toxic change over the years.

My personality type is called The Achiever (Type 3) – The Success oriented, pragmatic type.

I am adaptable, excelling, driven, and image conscious. Self-assured, attractive and charming. Ambitious, competitive, competent, and energetic.

Sounds amazing right?

The problem that arises that turns “Achievers” from inspiring leaders who love making a difference to power hungry ego maniacs only concerned about their own status: Fear

The core fear of my personality type is the fear of being worthless.

I can remember back when I lived in Korea waking up in a cold sweat on more than one occasion. What kept waking me up? The panicked feeling that what I was doing was not good enough. More than anything I wanted to be assured that my life was worth something and what I did in this life would make a difference in the world.

I would often ask my wife at the time desperate questions such as, “Is what I’m doing important?” or “Am I really making a difference?”

Fear can be a very effective motivator to succeed. I was able to achieve some pretty incredible things because I feared what might happen if I don’t. Growing up my dad would often say, “If you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all.” There was no room for failure. I look back on the achievements of my life so far with a bit of sadness because of this fact. That is no way to live.

So what happens to 3’s that derails them if you will is a number of things that happened to me. First they feel that they don’t matter, that their life is worthless. They may feel this way for a number of reasons. For me I felt that I didn’t have enough people around me giving me words of affirmation. I also grew impatient and too wrapped up in being results oriented. As a coach, if I was not winning games then I automatically viewed my efforts as a failure and no matter how many people that tried telling me that my job as a coach was important regardless of record – I did not listen. So they probably stopped telling me.

I can’t blame them.

Another thing that happens that warps type 3 personalities is a lack of community. Whether it’s reality or perceived reality, if I feel cut off and isolated then I give up on my dreams. Then I become toxic and pessimistic with my thinking:

Everyone hates me.

I’m the worst.

I might as well just give up and stop trying.

This is unhealthy thinking regardless of your personality type. For type 3’s it can be absolutely devastating (cue ramping up addiction).

So all of this makes it really hard for me to truly embrace the concept of “progress not perfection.” I have performed my whole life and got pretty damn good at it. I am used to winning. I thrive to be perfect in so many ways – some that I am not even aware of I’m sure.

So as a recovering addict I want so badly for my program to be perfect. Slips, selfish thinking, missing calls to my sponsor are just unacceptable in my mind. So when they happen, I take it very hard. I want to be the best at whatever I am doing and my recovery is no exception. I think God made me to be driven and to want to succeed in life. But I also think that God wants me to walk in humility on a daily basis and realize that I will never achieve perfection.

I love the fact that God made me to be an “Achiever.” I also am so grateful that I can strive to achieve the dreams inside my heart and be free from fear.

The simple yet profound truth is that I’m not capable of being perfect and I don’t have to be.

That’s a beautiful and freeing thing.





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