Diving into the Psyche of an Entertainment Legend
Update: Will Smith just punched Chris Rock in the face on national television. This entire post centered around how Will has evolved from average to high health, but his outburst suggests a relatively low-health state of mind. The incident is a reminder that a person’s level of development is in constant flux, and it requires deliberate work to remain at the highest levels of psychological well-being. Fun fact: at first Will was politely laughing at the infamous joke (socially malleable; go with the flow), and went in for the kill only after he realized it hurt Jada (supports his people; enraged in low health), which we believe is more evidence that he’s a Three with a Two wing. Enjoy.
Will Smith is not just a celebrity. He’s the paragon of stardom: a catchy rapper, lovable TV character, and international movie god wrapped into one. His career particularly excelled in the 1990s and 2000s, during which he won four Grammys, won our hearts (and our laughs) as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and delivered blockbuster after blockbuster in the cinema.
So when his memoir Will hit shelves in November 2021, we expected it to be an entertaining ride. What we didn’t know is how exceptionally well his story would reveal the inner workings of an Enneagram type Three. This post will focus on the key indicators suggesting that Will is a Three with a Two wing (3w2), highlight the prototypical Three struggles that he faced, and shed light on how he finally elevated into high psychological health after four decades of compulsively seeking external validation.
Note that type descriptions below come from Blueprint, our Enneagram app , and all quotes come directly from his book.
Will Smith’s base type : Three (The Achiever)
From best to worst, Threes are magnetic, adaptable, diplomatic, ambitious, industrious, competitive, performing, image-conscious, narcissistic, arrogant, and hostile. Threes want to avoid feeling worthless. They focus on accomplishing their goals, triumphing over situations, getting affirmed for their achievements, being the best at what they do, being socially significant, distinguishing themselves, acting efficiently, and impressing others. They’re driven by a need to be important, so they focus their efforts on achieving and succeeding to fill the void.
Subtype : Three with a Two wing (The Charmer)
The Charmer is alluring, engaging, driven, self-assured, chameleonic, performative, image-conscious, self-promoting, and hostile. They are charismatic and personable, but can be grandiose and spiteful.
Young Will was upbeat, funny, and people-pleasing, wanting “to keep everything light and fun and joyful.” Like most 3w2s, he blended enthusiasm with playfulness, in one instance charmingly fooling his mom into thinking his entire summer camp erupted into a wild concert with singers, a jazz band, and dance-offs—when the only thing that actually happened was the campers listened to a jukebox. Threes tend to love to be the center of attention (they’re in the Demanding triad , after all) and thrive off of storytelling and keeping things positive. “And it’s in this compulsive desire to constantly please others, to keep them laughing and smiling at all times,” Will explains, “that a true entertainer is born.”
Will’s youth reveals more hallmark traits of a Three: strong self-confidence, a love for performing (literally and figuratively), and an obsessive focus on self-image.
Will admits he had an “almost delusional level of confidence,” boastfully betting his friends that he could dunk a basketball when it was obvious he couldn’t, and ended up flat on the concrete after stuffing the ball against the front of the rim. Similarly, he believed there was no reason in the world he couldn’t be a rapper or hip-hop star if that’s what he wanted to be. Threes tend to believe in themselves unconditionally and relish fighting towards a tangible goal.
He also developed a fondness for performing because it gave him a welcome hit of attention: “Whether I was making up skits for my parents, or reenacting a movie for my friends, or singing songs at church for Gigi (his grandmother), performance became my little secret oasis of love. It gave me the warmth of affection but behind the protection of a mask. It was perfect: I could hide myself and be loved at the same time, mitigating the risk of vulnerability but gaining everything.”
While multiple Enneagram types can enjoy performing, Threes are most likely to relish the positive attention while hiding behind a mask. A Three’s basic fear is being worthless. To compensate, they become highly attuned to what important people in their lives value and strive towards it, continually shapeshifting and refining their presentation until they feel they fit the image of someone worthy of admiration.
More specifically, Will wanted to not only be admired but also loved, a core motivation of Enneagram type Twos. As Will put it, “Love became something earned by saying and doing the right things. In my mind, great performances got you love; bad performances left you abandoned and alone.” This very Two-ish statement suggests he’s a Three with a Two wing (the Charmer), who tend to be more personal and compassionate than the other subtype (the Professional). He leans into his relationships with others and comes across as a loyal friend and caring son. Even as a young teenage rap star, he takes extra time to sign autographs for fans because it pains him to ignore anyone.
The first two decades of his life have thus given us a strong indication that he’s a Three. Do his adult years suggest the same?
Big Willy Style
Will’s adult mindsets and behaviors align with those of an average-health Three. A Three’s desire to be valued often pushes them to acquire impressive material goods, compete with others to be the best, and tie their confidence to tangible results.
When he gets his first taste of material success, he can’t help but want more:
“The thing about money, sex, and success is that when you don’t have them, you can justify your misery—shit, if I had money, sex, and success, I’d feel great!...But once you are rich, famous, successful—and you’re still insecure and unhappy—the terrifying thought begins to lurk: Maybe the problem is me. Of course, I dismissed that foolishness quickly. I just needed more money, more women, more Grammys.”
Average-health Threes are often out of touch with their feelings, so for them it’s much easier to chase an external goal or image than to tune into their heart to figure out who they really are and what they really want. Instead, they often aim for the safest goal post around, one that almost everyone seems to value: more material success.
To be truly admirable, though, average Threes believe they must not only be successful but be the best at almost everything they do. For Will, we see this tendency in his constant competitions with his friend Charlie (who can throw a football farther? Who can run faster? Who’s a better driver?); his competitive streak in Monopoly (including boastfully eliminating his wife from a game with the kids on Christmas Eve); and his purchase of an exorbitantly large property simply because he wants everything around him to “be the grandest and most magnificent that anyone had ever seen.”
His desire to be exceptional is beyond the normal ranges, driven by a large ego and a deep-seated fear of failure. Will doesn’t just want to win; he has to win, because he’s only as good as his knowledge and achievements: “In order to feel confident and secure, you need to have something to feel confident and secure about,” he explains. For Will, confidence is directly proportional to your wins. Value is earned. Such is the mindset of many average Threes.
In addition to his mindsets, Will’s behaviors are consistent with those of a Three. He is ambitious, possesses an elite work ethic, and creates a wake of success for his family and friends. “While the other guy is eating, I’m working. While the other guy is sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy is making love…well…I’m making love, too, but I’m working really hard at it.”
For Will, success meant being the best actor in the world. He calculated that by waking up an hour earlier than his competitors, working through his lunches, and staying an hour later, he could gain an extra 780 hours per year on his competition. He always needs to feel like he’s being productive, lest he fall into mediocrity. Threes are among the most determined and disciplined types when they set their eye on a prize.
Even when Will is vacationing, he can’t fathom how his new local friends can spend an entire day sailing around and swimming. “The plan for today…what are we doing?” He wants to find jet skis or a party or cell phone reception to plug away at his work, and becomes visibly agitated without an “activity, a target, a mission, an adventure.” Threes often hate to feel unproductive, and even when they do let themselves relax, they want to be doing something besides sitting idle. Even leisure itself needs to feel worthwhile.
Will’s do-something anxiety may make him a substandard beach-lounging companion, but it drove massive success for him and his inner circle. He insists that his love language is helping the people he loves build extraordinary lives for themselves and he delivers, pushing his traveling support network to eat well, stay fit, perform their jobs at an elite level, and take care of each other. It’s another fantastic example of his core Three drive to achieve, mixed with his Two wing’s desire to build and maintain loving relationships.
Will’s shadow side
After Will becomes a father, there’s a wonderful scene contrasting his militaristic drive for success with his daughter Willow’s “do what feels right” attitude. Willow is 10 years old, a singing prodigy opening for Justin Bieber on his world tour with her hit single “Whip My Hair.”
One night she comes off stage with a huge smile on her face, and says it was amazing—but now she’s done with performing. Will laughs it off and says, well, maybe later, honey, but you made promises to people so of course you’ll follow through.
The next morning Willow cheerfully bounces into the kitchen and says good morning to her dad. She has completely shaved her head, a not-so-subtle protest against whipping her hair in front of more fans. “As strange as this may sound,” Will says, “in that moment I discovered feelings.”
He realizes Willow’s emotions have never registered on his radar because he’s been obsessively focused on the family’s survival and prosperity. Willow’s rebellion exposed him to a powerful truth, one that can be hard for most Threes to accept: “People care less about facts, truth, probabilities, or intentions than they do about how they feel and how well you have displayed that you care about those feelings.” In average health, Threes are emotionally out of touch with themselves and others, and it can take dramatic moments like these to wake them up.
Average-health Threes also tend to become so wrapped up in their external image that they rarely avoid putting it at risk. When Will is offered the role of a lifetime to play Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest fighters of all time and a beloved global icon, his gut responds with a hard no, deeming it stupid for his career. He’s already sitting on top of Hollywood as an esteemed winner, so why would he rock the boat?
“The risk-reward proposition was catastrophically imbalanced toward abysmal global failure and universal, eternal embarrassment,” he thinks. And there are few things as disturbing to a Three as public failure and humiliation. It isn’t until Muhammad Ali himself asks Will to play him that Will begins to take the offer seriously.
Lastly, on the other side of an average-health Three’s optimistic and accommodating demeanor is a vicious temper, especially towards those who get in their way or “wrong” them. We get a glimpse of it in two quarrels, one with his ex-wife and one with his ex-girlfriend.
Ever one to take pride in his sharpness, Will persuades a barber to cancel his scheduled client and come cut his hair on set in L.A. After they’re done, Will thanks the barber and writes down his home address so the barber can go collect the cash from Will’s wife. When Will finds out that Sheree skimped the barber, giving him 40% of what he was promised, Will is enraged, eviscerating her with the most scathing criticism he can possibly think of: “You know what—maybe one day you’ll be worth something.” Threes are normally easygoing and positive, but when they get angry…they get angry.
If that reaction was a nine, he shatters the rage-meter in an altercation with his ex-girlfriend. Melanie informs Will in front of his friends that she’s going out. She’s scantily dressed and being coy about where she’s headed, a deliberate expression of her frustration with the relationship. When she returns home in a cab at 2 a.m., she spots Will on the front porch with a pile of everything he’s ever bought for her doused in lighter fluid. Will lights a match, looks her in the eye, and drops it. It may come as no surprise that Threes as their lowest level of health are often described as hostile, remorseless, and malicious.
The inflection point
Despite his gargantuan success, Will struggled mentally, discontented with life and at a loss for how to make things better. His most profound realizations and breakthroughs came from working one-on-one with Michaela Boehm, a psychologist trained in trauma, relationship therapy, and tantric sexuality.
Michaela was quick to decipher Will’s psychological makeup, endearingly caricaturing him as a hybrid of “the General” and “Fluffy,” which maps well to an Enneagram 3w2.
The General represents Will’s thoroughbred Three industriousness, the part of him that strives to “get the flag to the top of the hill by any means necessary, and to covertly (and not so covertly) punish those who dared to dissent.”
Fluffy is Will’s sweet, affable, harmless side; if he can just be nice enough, generous enough, and entertaining enough, he’ll always be approved of and no one will ever leave him. Fluffy symbolizes the Three’s desire to be valued and the Two’s desire to be loved.
Yet neither of these identities is actually Will, Michaela explains; the General and Fluffy are both constructs designed to earn external approval. Who would Will be if he could feel safe in his own skin?
Michaela guides Will on an exhaustive journey of personal growth. She lays out a curriculum for him to become a “Freestanding Man” who is self-aware, self-reliant, self-motivated, self-confident, and unswayed by others’ opinions—in other words, a high-health Three.
She has Will practice sensing into his emotions so he can use them as a powerful guide, develop more robust boundaries with others so he can feel independent and free, value authenticity above approval so he can trust himself and be more trustworthy to others, question his rigid belief systems so he can be more thoughtful and dynamic, learn to swim in the ocean so he can learn the power of surrender, and participate in ayahuasca ceremonies so he can confront and heal issues hidden in his subconscious.
Michaela’s lessons are nothing less than transformational. At the end of his book, a reflective Will reveals he’s finally found the secret to “the Smile,” a deep sense of inner peace and contentment—and it’s nothing like he imagined. “I had held a miscomprehension around the physics of ultimate happiness. I had thought that I could gain and win and achieve and conquer and acquire and succeed my way to love and happiness.” After all, how could he not feel euphoric after eight number one hit movies, 30 million records, four Grammys, and hundreds of millions of dollars?
Because the Smile cannot come from the outside, Will explains. No relationships, careers, houses, or material goods can fill someone’s void of inner peace and fulfillment. Contentment is counterintuitive, “not something you get, but something you cultivate through giving. In the end, it will not matter one single bit how well they loved you—you will only gain ‘the Smile’ based on how well you loved them…To love and to be loved is the highest human reward and ecstasy.”
Will realizes the purpose of his life should no longer be about personal success. It’s about “discovering, cultivating, and sharing your unique gifts for the purpose of uplifting and empowering your loved ones.”
His metamorphosis for the time being is complete. Enneagram theory posits that in high health, Threes become more other-focused and community-oriented like the Six, and more genuine and content like the Nine. Will holds true to the trend. Through years of healing and inner work, he develops a profound self-awareness and genuine compassion for others, which, for the first time in his life, give him an enduring sense of peace. His new dynamism makes him healthier, happier, and truly unstoppable.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.