Type 1- The Reformer/Perfectionist

The Enneagram Institute 

The Rational, Idealistic Type:
Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic

We have named personality type One The Reformer because Ones have a “sense of mission” that leads them to want to improve the world in various ways, using whatever degree of influence they have. They strive to overcome adversity—particularly moral adversity—so that the human spirit can shine through and make a difference. They strive after “higher values,” even at the cost of great personal sacrifice.

History is full of Ones who have left comfortable lives to do something extraordinary because they felt that something higher was calling them. During the Second World War, Raoul Wallenburg left a comfortable middle-class life to work for the protection of thousands of European Jews from invading Nazis. In India, Gandhi left behind his wife and family and life as a successful lawyer to become an itinerant advocate of Indian independence and non-violent social changes. Joan of Arc left her village in France to restore the throne to the Dauphin and to expel the English from the country. The idealism of each of these Ones has inspired millions.

Ones are people of practical action—they wish to be useful in the best sense of the word. On some level of consciousness, they feel that they “have a mission” to fulfill in life, if only to try their best to reduce the disorder they see in their environment.

Although Ones have a strong sense of purpose, they also typically feel that they have to justify their actions to themselves, and often to others as well. This orientation causes Ones to spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences of their actions, as well as about how to keep from acting contrary to their convictions. Because of this, Ones often persuade themselves that they are “head” types, rationalists who proceed only on logic and objective truth. But, the real picture is somewhat different: Ones are actually activists who are searching for an acceptable rationale for what they feel they must do. They are people of instinct and passion who use convictions and judgments to control and direct themselves and their actions.

In the effort to stay true to their principles, Ones resist being affected by their instinctual drives, consciously not giving in to them or expressing them too freely. The result is a personality type that has problems with repression, resistance, and aggression. They are usually seen by others as highly self- controlled, even rigid, although this is not how Ones experience themselves. It seems to them that they are sitting on a cauldron of passions and desires, and they had better “keep the lid on” lest they and everyone else around them regret it.

Cassandra is a therapist in private practice who recalls the difficulty this caused her in her youth.

“I remember in high school getting feedback that I had no feelings. Inside, I felt my feelings intensely and yet I just couldn’t let them out as intensely as I felt them. Even now, if I have a conflict with a friend and need to address an issue, I rehearse ahead of time how to express clearly what I want, need, and observe, and yet not be harsh or blaming in my anger which is often scathing.”

Ones believe that being strict with themselves (and eventually becoming “perfect”) will justify them in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. But by attempting to create their own brand of perfection, they often create their own personal hell. Instead of agreeing with the statement in Genesis that God saw what He had created, “and it was good,” Ones intensely feel that “It wasn’t—there obviously have been some mistakes here!” This orientation makes it difficult for them to trust their inner guidance—indeed, to trust life—so Ones come to rely heavily on their superego, a learned voice from their childhood, to guide them toward “the greater good” which they so passionately seek. When Ones have gotten completely entranced in their personality, there is little distinction between them and this severe, unforgiving voice. Separating from it and seeing its genuine strengths and limitations is what growth for Ones is about. (from The Wisdom of the Enneagram, p. 99-100)

Click here to go to The  Enneagram Institute for more information on Type 1.

Beatrice Chestnut from Beaticechestnut.com 

The Perfectionist or Reformer

Type One is sometimes called The Perfectionist in that they tend to view the world in terms of how it matches (or doesn’t match) what they view as perfect or ideal. Their focus of attention is on whether things are right or wrong, doing the right thing, noticing and correcting errors, and working hard to improve things. They have a strong internal critical voice that comments on the things they do, and they can be critical and judgmental of others. They usually conform to rules and standards and tend to be idealistic reformers. They are often people of high integrity. Central challenges include managing their own anger and self-criticism.

Helen Palmer  from Enneagram.com

Basic Proposition:  There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything.

Habitual Focus of Attention: What is right or wrong, correct or incorrect.

What "Perfectionists" tell us about themselves:

  • They live with a powerful inner critic that monitors every thought, word, and deed;

  • They worry about getting things right and are unusually sensitive to criticism;

  • They strive for perfection and feel responsible;

  • "Perfectionists" also report a focus on being good and repress their impulses/desires for pleasure;

  • They can be rigid, overly controlled, seeing virtue as its own reward.

Conscious TV on Youtube

One of the best ways to see if a particular number on the Enneagram rings true for you, is to watch a panel of that number discuss their lives. Often books or teachings capture the concept, but panels bring it to life and can describe the subtleties like no one else can. If you think you might be a Type 1, see if you recognize yourself in this conversation: