This post is part of a series that came in all at once, so you can pick and choose which types you want to get a basic overview for. You will also see that there is an Enneagram Basics introduction post, where I go into some of the terms and their definitions, so that might be a really good place to start if you haven’t read that one yet, so you can be sure to understand the basics of the Enneagram before diving into the specifics of each type.
I’m basing a lot of what we’re going to be talking about for each type around my book, “The Enneagram for Beginners” which can be a great added resource if you want to dig deeper. It includes journaling prompts and some scriptures to think on for each type, and is just another available tool for those of you who would like to learn more.
Without further ado, let’s talk about Type Ones.
A Type 1’s Focus
Type Ones tend to focus on what’s right, acceptable, and appropriate when it comes to life, and it can be hard to point that focus away to something different, especially if that Type 1 is stressed, or there’s something that they really feel needs to be improved. Type Ones can have a lot of frustration going on in the background, because they see how life could be, and have a vision of what perfection or improvement could look like, and are painfully aware of the gap in between where that standard is and where things currently are. Because of this, there can be an underlying frustration going on for a Type 1.
Type Ones tend to hold high standards for themselves, for other people, and for the world in general; and the ways that life isn’t improving or the mistakes that continually happen can really feel like an assault on their senses and emotions. It is a big deal to them when they notice things that are out of place or wrong. Negative or uncomfortable emotions can feel wrong or inappropriate as well, so a Type 1 might actually try to suppress things like anger, awkwardness, and that frustration that they tend to feel. It feels inappropriate to show them, so Type Ones show this kind of “self-control”, which is not necessarily the kind of self-control that we want to strive for, but rather an automatic reaction that a Type 1 puts on themselves. The pressure to be appropriate can feel very, very strong for a Type 1, and this stems from an underlying belief that being worthy of love and acceptance, and being in the spaces that they want to be in comes from being “above approach” and doing what is right.
There is the thought that a Type 1 has an “inner critic,” this inner voice or feeling that berates them, reprimands them, and points out their flaws; to a Type 1, it feels like they are never good enough, and the Inner Critic constantly reminds them of that.
I have actually heard from some Type Ones that they aren’t sure they have an Inner Critic, which makes them question if they have mistyped themselves, so I want to share a few ways this Inner Critic can show up.
- Sometimes it can feel like a separate part of us, like a scolding parent
- It could be an inner drive towards reform: “This needs to be better. This isn’t enough. How can this improve?”
- It can look like constant questioning of “How can I make life better? How can I make myself better? How can I do better?”
- It could sound more like a coach: wanting to be better, wanting to do better, always needing to know how to do better.
So the Inner Critic may actually feel like a positive force for a Type 1, but what it’s really doing is focusing too much and too constantly on what needs to change, and what needs to be better, what went wrong…And that’s why we call it an inner critic.
What makes the Type 1 a Type 1 is having specific main motivations. A Type 1 would say that if they could only have one thing, they would want to be right; they would want to be good; they would want to do the appropriate thing. The reason for this is their underlying belief, which is that they are not ok unless they are good. They think, “I’m not accepted; I’m not loved; I’m not worthy…unless I’m good.”
This belief turns into a lot of the behaviors and motivations that we see for Type 1:
- To have integrity
- To be good.
- To be right.
- To be balanced
- To be appropriate
And the Type One’s fears are the equal opposite of their desires:
- Being wrong
- Being corrupted, or even corruptible
- Making mistakes
- Being unworthy due to imperfections or blemishes.
Because Type Ones are running towards being good and running away from being wrong, it creates a kind of “push-pull” inside of them, an ongoing struggle that for Type Ones manifests as anger and resentment, and the frustration we talked about before: a continuous frustration that things are not measuring up the way they want them to be and are striving for them to be.
So those are the motivations of a Type 1, and out of those motivations come the behaviors and things that we see as being typical of a Type 1.
A Type 1 has 9 on one side of them and 2 on the other side, so those are the possible wings for a Type 1 (a 1w9, or a 1w2).
A 9 wing might cause a 1 to come across a little more analytical, very logical, and maybe a little gentler than a 1w2; they may be a little calmer in their demeanor and a little more generous, especially when at their best and healthy. When struggling, though, a 1w9 might be a little more impatient with life, other people, and themselves; and might seem a little more judgmental or quietly critical about the shortcomings of other people (and maybe even a little more willing to point them out!)
On the other side, a 1w2 is a little more likely to be outwardly vocal, helpful, action-oriented, and maybe come across a little warmer in demeanor than a 1w9 (just based on how people perceive them, not necessarily what’s going on inside of them.) In stress or struggle as a 1w2, they might be a little more intrusive into the lives of other people, and might push in to help and cross boundaries, or insist that other people take their advice.
As you can see, both 1w9 and 1w2 have beautiful things about them, and things that they may be more likely to struggle with. Something else to keep in mind, too, is that you don’t have to have a wing as a Type 1; it is totally possible to have no wings, or “balanced wings.”
Levels of Health
Remember that each type will bounce around in their levels of health; it isn’t that you start from the bottom and then work your way up to health; there isn’t really a “progression” or straight path. Instead, levels of health are more of a barometer and an indication of where you are at the moment.
A healthy type 1, who is living intentionally, can really inspire others. There’s no judgment, and not a standard to be met; instead, there is more of an inspiration and a sharing of wisdom with love as a healthy Type 1. A healthy Type 1 also has a hope that life can get better, and that they can improve without being frustrated that they aren’t there yet. They know that life doesn’t have to be picture-perfect, but there’s this beautiful hope for what life could be like. So when in a healthy place, Ones tend to be a little more balanced, a little more responsible for their stuff, but also quick to forgive themselves and other people when mistakes happen. In this place, they are able to embrace all of their emotions, and are okay with the uncomfortable ones; they don’t feel inappropriate, and Ones feel like they can express them in healthy ways.
As Ones start to get a little less intentional, more on autopilot, then they might start to listen to that inner critic more. However it shows up for them, whether it’s pushing them towards being right or getting after them for making mistakes, a Type 1 on autopilot might feel like those mistakes or lack of perfection starts to define who they are, and can bring that on as an identity: “I’m not good enough.” This belief can drive them to try to perfect themselves, other people, and the world, because something has to be done if they aren’t good enough. These Ones may feel that they alone have the answers that are needed, and they feel very compelled to share them with other people (and to have those other people agree with them.)
As Ones move more into unhealthy levels, they might become more fixated on right and wrong, have very “black and white” thinking, and begin micromanaging more. They might feel like gaining control and being able to make decisions for themselves, other people, and the world is the only way to really calm that Inner Critic and feel that they are doing everything they can do. This is where a lot of the judgment starts to be passed down from Ones to other people, where they start to feel like something has to be done and nobody is doing it right.
Obviously, this is not a great place to be! So as a Type 1, you really do want to strive to be intentional and to stay in a healthy place as much as possible.
In growth, or when a Type 1 is feeling secure, relaxed, or even ready to try something new that isn’t their natural tendency, then they might move towards the healthy things that we see in a Type 7:
- More outwardly joyful
- Very self-accepting
- Feeling like they are free to try new things.
- Able to offer grace more naturally and easily
On the opposite side of the spectrum, when a Type 1 is feeling stressed, like their normal ways to make things happen in life are not working, they may move to the less healthy tendencies and behaviors of a Type 4:
- Having a deep feeling of unfulfilled expectations
- Struggling with melancholy
- Feeling unloved or misunderstood
- Thinking that all of the responsibility is on them and just wanting to be rid of that responsibility.
- Indulging in some of their more “selfish” or unhealthy indulgences and desires (and then feeling really, really guilty afterwards)
You can read the “Enneagram Basics Introduction” post to get a little more of an explanation of what the subtypes are and how we get to them. What I want to do here is show you how the different subtypes might “color” a Type 1 and add nuance to their personality.
A self-preservation Type 1 might have some of the more stereotypical “perfectionist” tendencies and behaviors. A lot of their anger in life is pointed directly back at themselves because they aren’t “perfect enough.” Outwardly they come across as warm and friendly because that’s the “appropriate” and polite thing to do, so this can be one of the ways that they try to be perfect.
For this subtype, the idea of being perfect is almost like they have a perfect way to be; they try to be a perfect role model. They are focusing on the good of the group and might look at life as a big “group project,” and think about how they can be responsible and help other people. They might also be a little more rigid in their opinion of the right way to do something and believe that other people need to align with what they think needs to be done, whether it’s because they have done their research, have a gut feeling, or simply because they see themselves as the role model.
Instead of always pointing their anger inward (“I have to be perfect”), this Type 1’s anger goes outward to others and to society in general. They see how other people can improve, and may be a little more expressive in their anger because of that, believing that anger might be the way to get results and help improve the people around them.
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