Enneagram type One: The Perfectionist

Driving force: Anger being suppressed

Spotting Enneagram Type 1s

1s’ perfectionism is often palpable by others around them, whether turned outward or inward. The upright, controlled demeanor is distinctive, and 1s generally have some disapproval, criticism, or moralizing for whatever they see as wrong or incorrect. 1s want to fix and improve things and have a natural certainty about how. When they doubt, it’s an internal matter — “what do I believe?” rather than “whom do I believe?” The moral locus is in the self. They strive to follow a set of principles and take their commitments, promises, and work very seriously. Look for a sense of emotional control, although you may see their drive, passion, or anger, and sometimes they “slip out” of their self-control or rules for a brief period of enjoying themselves. With a 9 wing especially they can be extremely contained. 1s with a 9 wing like their principles clearly defined, but the 9 wing introduces an uncertainty with which they may struggle. 1s with a 2 wing can show more “fire” and be snippier but in some ways more understanding; they recognize a “human” quality. They have some willingness to let themselves off the hook, usually unacknowledged. At best, they may be able to extend this to others. At worst, it leads them to hypocrisy.

Type 1s may make things worse for themselves by:
Constant self-criticism and unrealistic expectations
Inability to stop a task until everything is “right”
Rigid limitations on their behavior and denial of pleasure

Type 1s may make things worse for others by:
Holding others to demanding standards
Emotional unavailability even in personal relationships

Why Do They Do That?

1s control themselves as part of their drive to perfect their behavior. The range of spontaneous human impulses does not match their ideal of “good behavior.” The suppressed anger leaking out is typically not intended and they may not be conscious that it’s being expressed, or realize that it seems disproportionate to others who don’t share their view of everything that’s wrong in the situation. They generally see their criticism as helpful and, since it’s part of the background noise of their own mind, it may not occur to them that others associate them mainly with that behavior. They don’t see why people would want their impulses and feelings as part of bonding. They consider it the good, considerate thing to do to offer their best approximation of perfection instead. Feelings other than and occasionally even including their convictions are considered unimportant, unreliable to plan around, and often impolite. With the 9 wing especially, making decisions perfectly by eliminating factors that are not “logical” may be an ideal on its own. A change of plans for 1s means all the evaluation of what the best route is must be done all over again.

What It’s Like To Be A Type 1

1s are as hard on themselves as they can be hard on others. They automatically notice things that could be better and live in a world of principles and temptations. Everything is compared to the best it could be and usually falls short, which bothers them viscerally and leads to frustration and disappointment. 1s feel that there is a social or interpersonal contract to bring your best to whatever you participate in and to leave the world better than you found it, and that they put their all in for others while others fail to hold up the contract and often don’t even seem to care. Although occasionally 1s are disorganized in particular spheres or hold anti-authoritarian principles, there is still a natural inclination towards order in them. 1s feel not listened to when others don’t share their view of what’s important and how things really are. Resentment may be directed at people who get away with things or get more than their share, who engage in behavior the 1 unconsciously desires, or simply whose demeanor irritates the 1, perhaps by being uncouth or cutesy. 1s commonly feel a clear sense of purpose and feel unmoored without one.

You can make type 1s feel heard by:

Accept that it’s important to them to continue to stay true to their principles and fulfill goodness and correctness as much as they can.
Accept that it makes sense for them to feel like attempts to weaken their principles are a threat.
Accept that correctness and their moral code makes sense for them to prioritize.
(You can still gently push on these things, but get into their position first and push from there.)

Be fair and impartial. Be willing to take seriously what they take seriously. Sympathize with them about what a mess the world is. Acknowledge that it shouldn’t have to be that way, even if you disagree with their idea of how to get there. Recognize that just because 1s want to keep doing what they’re doing doesn’t mean they’re happy. On the contrary, they’re constantly tough on themselves, struggle to untangle repression, and believe other things are more important than happiness. Remind them that they are good and enough. It can be easier for them to hear at first with concrete reasons.