Type One – The Perfectionist

The Enneagram Type One personality – the Perfectionist – lays claim to a highly attuned sense of right and wrong based on culturally conditioned internal standards. They deem it virtuous to do “the right thing” and are motivated to avoid error, fault, or blame. That being said, Ones do not share a common set of internal standards or the same sense of urgency. An absolute imperative for a given One may not be much of a blip on the radar of another.

Ones like to make progress toward goals using efficient, methodical systems and time tables. They follow proven systems and excel in developing and refining procedures. They’re realistic about what they can accomplish and practical in their approach to getting it done.

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 is the perfectionist

When subject to the influence of the neighboring Nine, Healthy Ones become the Idealist. They are scholarly, wise, discerning, and focused on longer range concerns. They tend toward introversion – emotionally reserved, kind, and considerate. They still have a passionate drive to improve the world around them, but they proceed with a gentle nature.

When subject to the influence of the neighboring Two, Healthy Ones become the Advocate. They’re more demonstrably passionate about the causes they pursue. They empathize with the people they serve and work tirelessly in their behalf.

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.

Of course, all that perfectionism can have a dark side. 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. Deeming anger and other emotions bad, 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. As they free themselves from the grasps of their inner critics, they imbue their lives with more joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and open-mindedness.

I experienced my father as a Self-Preservation One. As a Safety Engineer, he traveled all over Northern California to ensure that companies provided safe working conditions for their employees. At home, he was a master craftsman who completed countless home improvement projects to perfection. He always strove to do his best and inspired a standard of excellence through our family motto: What you do, do it well.