Type One – The Perfectionist

The Enneagram Type ONE personality has a highly attuned sense of right and wrong based on a carefully crafted set of internal standards. They deem it virtuous to do the right thing; they take action based on what they think they should do. This impulse may lead them to see the highest good and motivate diligent efforts to attain it. Or, it may give them an eye for seeing error, driving them to reform what has gone awry.

ONES take their time forming opinions, making decisions, and taking action. Everything goes through an inner law court during which they act as plaintiff, defendant, judge, and jury. Judgments will be defended rigorously at the conclusion of this exacting process. ONES have a hard time making mistakes and an even harder time accepting blame. When at fault, they ruminate, self-criticize, and then institute self-improvement so it won’t happen again.

ONES like well-defined boundaries. They’ll establish one or more territories over which they exercise mastery, generally something at which they are skilled, experienced, and/or natively interested. Once they define their territory, they like to make progress toward worthy goals using efficient, methodical systems, and time tables. They’re realistic about what they can accomplish and practical in their approach to getting it done.

ONES prefer individual effort and have faith that they can do things better than others. When in charge of groups, they feel the weight of responsibility for everyone’s work product. To assuage their anxiety, they’ll define roles, responsibilities, and outcomes to ensure that everyone is clear on expectations. They have no problem letting others know when things could be done differently and better. They don’t think their critiques deal harshly with others; that’s how they talk to themselves. Moreover, they don’t want to have to clean up other people’s messes. They’re not terribly concerned with being liked; they want to garner respect and do good work.

Healthy ONES strive to be honest in all of their dealings. They say what they’ll do and do what they say. They have great powers of discernment. They have keen analytical minds and a strong work ethic that supports planning, execution, and problem-solving. They adhere to standards of fairness and set aside their own needs for the benefit of the collective. ONES tend to influence others by example and by the consistent exercise of sound judgment.

enneagram type one perfectionist

ONES want to be useful. From their NINE wing, they are broad systemic thinkers who have a passionate desire to improve the world around them. From their TWO wing, they empathize with the people they serve and work tirelessly in their behalf. A sense of being responsible for everything (NINE) and needing to be good (TWO) reinforces their natural instinct to be correct, be right, be competent, and be in integrity.

ONES are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation ONES tend to be workaholics driven by a commitment to excellence in themselves, their work, and their immediate environment. They may have a difficult time letting their guards down for fear that things will go wrong and/or threaten their material well-being.
  • One-to-One ONES seek perfection in their intimate relationships. They’ve got high expectations and aren’t shy about expressing their opinions in service of improving others and getting what they want. Fidelity and commitment rank high in their esteem.
  • Social ONES seek to be moral exemplars who leverage their time and talents for the greater good. As gifted educators, advocates, and orators, they’re unabashed about speaking their minds in public forums. They’re frequently drawn into politics, community organizing, and journalism.

Unhealthy ONES can be experienced as arrogant, inflexible, critical, and controlling. They may beat themselves down by a relentlessly judgmental inner voice that tears at their self-esteem and denies them simple pleasures. This voice may also find fault with others and give little weight to their ideas or opinions. While the vice of ONE is anger, they experience resistance to it and judge themselves for feeling it. As such, they may not recognize the tempests brewing in their own teapots.

Under stress, ONES may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy FOUR. They seek relief from their inner critic and hefty burdens through flights of daydreaming and romanticizing. They’re prone to moodiness as they come to terms with a sinking feeling that no one understands or appreciates them. Their heretofore reliable discipline and self-control may abandon them.

The antidote to stress lies in developing the capacity to listen to the nurturing inner voice who sees goodness and is lenient toward faults and failings. It grants ONES the freedom to set healthy limits and accept help from others. It gives ONES the space to be open to their needs and vulnerabilities without judgment. It also engenders awareness of repressed anger as a bellwether of underlying issues that need to be addressed.

ONES find strength in movement toward a Healthy SEVEN. From this position, they learn to be affected by their environment without tensing in resistance to it. They realize that there are many ways to do things, and that pleasure can be sought rather than avoided. As they free themselves from the grasps of their inner critics, they imbue their lives with more joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and open-mindedness.