Enneagram Type 1: The Perfectionist/ Improver/Reformer

The Enneagram Type 1 is called the Perfectionist, Improver, or the Reformer because their attention automatically goes to what needs improvement and correction. They tend to see things in black and white, either perfect or imperfect, with very little gray in between. Type 1s feel pressure to be correct and to get things right. They have a tendency to analyze, and sometimes overanalyze things. Type 1s have high standards and often find themselves in charge of projects or initiatives because they have a sense that “it will only be done right if I do it.” They feel a great deal of personal responsibility for things they are involved in. Critical of others, they are even more critical of themselves.


Hear directly from Enneagram Type 1s




Watch the 3-Minute Video on Self-Criticism from a Type 1 panel during an online training.





Attention bias

The magnifying glass goes to what needs improvement. They see what needs improvement or correction. Their attention moves away from the current state as good enough.


Enneagram Type 1 Gifts to the World

Type 1s offer the world improvement either through increased efficiency, structure, planning and organization or in some instances, through moral heroism and radical social change. As their attention naturally goes to what can be improved, this action-oriented type moves to implement the improvements their minds naturally notice.


Enneagram Type 1s Typically Report

1. A Desire to Get It Right

Type 1s report a desire to be perfect and to have a clear structure in which they can achieve perfection. This type often reports they can’t really enjoy something if they can’t do it well. They seek a model to follow that clearly outlines the parameters to meet perfection.

“A friend invited us to dinner and asked us to arrive between 8:00 and 8:30. I almost didn’t know how to interpret that. Internally I decided would arrive at 8:15. A range of time wasn’t going to work for me at all.”

2. Extensive Social Contracts

A social contract refers to the idea that we all have unspoken social rules we understand and follow. For example, we inherently understand we don’t throw trash on our neighbor’s front lawn. We don’t need to say it out loud—we all just understand it. Type 1s tend to have many more of these unspoken social contracts than the other types. As a classic example, Type 1s can become extremely irritated by people who park outside of the lines in a parking lot. They work hard to live up to high ideals, and they expect others to do the same.

“I’ve almost ended friendships over punctuality. It enraged me that one friend was constantly late. Then he finally let me know he didn’t expect me to be on time for him, and suddenly, my anger vanished. But I almost ended the friendship before that point.”

3. They Become Exhausted by Their Own Thoughts and Efficiency

Most Type 1s report that it is exhausting to have the mind constantly correcting whatever they see and experience. Some report walking down the street can be irritating because they notice all the details that could be improved. Type 1s also sometimes report becoming exhausted by their own efficiency. Because they are natural and effective organizers, others often look to and lean on Type 1s to get things done. This responsibility can sometimes become disproportionate and draining.

“Sometimes I decide just to stay in the house all day because I know I’m going to get too irritated if I go out. I’ll see all the things in the neighborhood that need correcting, and it annoys me so much I’d rather just stay home…”


Tools for Compassion If You Have Enneagram Type 1s in Your Life

1. Recognize they may be critical of you, but they are even harder on themselves

Type 1s can be critical, it is true, but they are even more critical of themselves. Most Type 1s report extreme self-criticism (often 10 on a scale of 1-10), and they criticize themselves about everything – what I said, what I didn’t say, what I ate for breakfast, what I did over the weekend. Keep this in mind the next time your Type 1s directs criticism your way.

2. Recognize that their constant correction isn’t personal—it is just the way their mind works

Type 1s naturally see what needs correction—this is just what their minds do. As an action-oriented type, they also often proactively implement the changes they want. At a minimum, they might want to share with you what they notice. While it can feel personal, it isn’t. Even when it is directed at you, it is just where their attention naturally goes. They can change their behavior and reaction to it, but this is the Type 1 experience and where the attention naturally gravitates.

3. Help them lighten up, laugh, have fun and slow down

Type 1s often feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. They can be efficiency machines, always thinking of the next thing that needs to be done and planning how to do it well. It can be very challenging for them to allow themselves time to relax and time for fun. Helping them laugh, lighten up, play and enjoy life is very healing for Type 1s.


Enneagram Type 1 Levels of Awareness

Perfectionist (1) When Self-Aware

Perfectionist (1)s become wise, discerning, accepting, and compassionate. They exude joyful tranquility and acceptance. Realistic, humane, and inspiring, they exercise good judgment knowing when to take action and when to let things be as they are. They have a strong desire to be rational, reasonable, mature, and moderate. Extremes are avoided although a strong sense of right and wrong remains. They become accepting, though maybe not agreeing, of other perspectives and views. Perfectionist (1)s at this level of awareness are intensely principled with a focused aspiration to be fair and objective. Their primary values are truth and justice. They have a deep sense of personal responsibility and a sense of answering to a higher authority. Personal integrity, diligence, and determination are observable.

Perfectionist (1) With Tightening Defenses

Demanding and disapproving of both their self and others, the Perfectionist (1) becomes more judgmental, harsh, and rigid. Their thinking becomes narrow as they believe they alone know the right way things should be done. Reality feels imperfect and disappointing. The drive to improve can be directed at causes, people or their own environment. Fear starts to present itself as the Perfectionist (1) becomes deeply afraid of making a mistake or acting improperly. They become orderly and well-organized in the extreme and can seem emotionally contained, rigid, serious, detached, and at times robotic. Workaholism may be a factor as the Perfectionist (1) feels a heightened sense of responsibility for everything in their environment. They have an opinion and a critique about everything. Impatience and dissatisfaction set in at this level along with scolding, reprimanding, correcting, blaming, and chastising. Anger may start to present itself.

Perfectionist (1) When Fixated

The Perfectionist (1) becomes self-righteous, rigid, closed-minded, and dogmatic. Black and white thinking dominates with little or no room for compassion. A strong sense of moral superiority and righteousness begins to prevail along with harsh judgments and rigid self-justifications. There is little to no flexibility in their thinking. The Perfectionist (1) becomes obsessive about perfection and completely intolerant of any perceived wrongdoings of others. Uncompromising, adamant, severe, and fixed in their positions, the Perfectionist (1) may start to isolate and alienate themselves from others. They start to have a reality distortion, projecting wrongdoing into benign situations. The Perfectionist (1) becomes cruel and punishing towards others. They won’t tolerate any behavior that doesn’t conform to their standards and can be unapologetically harsh in their judgments. Depression and nervous breakdowns are possibilities.


Subtypes for Enneagram Type 1

“Worry” Self-Preservation Subtype:

The self-preservation Perfectionist (1) turns their attention for improvement to themselves. To the outside world, this person is warm, kind, tolerant, and decent. Internally, they are often very self-critical and filled with worry. This is a person who has a drive to control their environment, plan everything out and keep things under control. Extreme attention may be paid to detail in living spaces, food, cooking, practical household tasks, bill paying, and so on. The attention goes to behaving well and correctly. They have the title “Worry” because of a constant drive, expressed through worry, to achieve perfection, to avert misfortune or disaster, and to avoid blame.

The self-preservation Perfectionist (1) is the stereotypical perfectionist, striving to do everything right and being particularly hard on themselves when they miss the mark of their own high standards. In intimate relationships, partners usually don’t feel as judged by a self-preservation Perfectionist (1) as the habit of attention is focused on the Perfectionist (1) themselves and not their partner.

Self-preservation Perfectionist (1)s are wired to believe love and support are not freely given. Instead, they must be earned by good behavior. This is a person for whom anger and worry go hand in hand. They may have an energetic warmth to them.

On the positive side, this is someone who tries hard to behave appropriately and to be a good, supportive partner. They admit their failings and can be forgiving of others when they get a sincere apology. They are reliable and loyal.

On the less positive side, this is someone who can be filled with worry, anxiety and repressed anger. They are highly sensitive to being blamed or criticized and can become rigid and unyielding.

“Non-Adaptability” Social Subtype:

The social Perfectionist (1) turns the attention for improvement to become a model of behavior for others. This is a person who strives to be extremely appropriate and correct and wants the group to emulate them. This person often expresses irritation that others don’t act “as they should.” To the outside world, this person can seem a bit detached, introverted or “above it all.” Internally, they feel a lot of irritation and typically don’t feel completely comfortable in the groups they frequent. They have the title “Non-Adaptability” because of their predisposition to believe there is one right way to do things, and they know that way. This is a type that often tires themselves out in their quest to be a model for others.

Less than a stereotypical perfectionist, this person strives to be correct. They want to act correctly, speak correctly, think correctly and so forth. In intimate relationships, the social Perfectionist (1) expresses a deep need to be right and may have a school teacher type of mentality. They may have an energetic coolness to them.

On the positive side, this is someone who naturally gravitates to the role of teacher and who truly tries to be a good example for other people. They can be fair, inspiring, wise and discerning. They practice what they preach and have a sense that modeling and demonstrating is just as important as their spoken word.

On the less positive side, partners may experience very rigid thinking and observe that their Perfectionist (1) partners can’t easily take in new information. In extreme rigidity, the mind closes completely and is unable to accept and absorb new information. It is important to understand the root of this inability is a concern that new information could shake the entire foundation of the belief system shattering the stability of correctness. New information can feel threatening. This can also be someone who comes across as superior and a “know- it-all” often without realizing it. It is very important for them to be right.

“Zeal” Intimate Subtype:

The intimate Perfectionist (1) turns the attention for improvement towards their intimate relationships and partner. This is a person who has an intensity and drive to correct which is more exaggerated than in the other two subtypes. To the outside world, this type looks more like a reformer than a perfectionist. Internally, this person feels more direct anger than the other Perfectionist (1)s and is driven to action with a sense of urgency. They have the title “Zeal” because of this intense drive to correct. This is a special intensity of desire that can have a flavor of righteousness to it. This person may feel they must have their desire for correction met immediately.

In intimate relationships, this zeal is directed at their partner. This is the type most likely to be directly frustrated by their partner’s “imperfections,” and the intimate subtype Perfectionist (1) expresses more intense anger and frustration directly towards their partner’s behavior. This zeal can extend to anyone in the Perfectionist (1)’s intimate circle. This person may have an energetic heat to them.

On the positive side, this is someone who legitimately wants to help their partner make genuine and helpful improvements. The intimate Perfectionist (1) doesn’t question themselves too much, and their energy goes into making others into what they feel they should be.

On the less positive side, the intimate Perfectionist (1) can be hypocritical, demanding improvements in others but not holding themselves to the same standards. There is an emotional intensity in this Perfectionist (1), and situations and behavior can quickly escalate to the pitch of “This must stop now!”

For more information on Enneagram subtypes, I recommend Beatrice Chestnut’s book “The Complete Enneagram.”


The Wings

1w9: The Idealist

Type 1s with a 9 wing are often more emotionally cool, understated in their presentation, and a bit more philosophical in their approach to life than their 2 wing counterparts. The 9 wing brings a calm, sometimes detached aura, and this type often operates more “behind the scenes.”

1w2: The Advocate

Type 1s with a 2 wing are more people-oriented and exhibit more interpersonal warmth than their 9 wing counterparts. The 2 wing drives them to consider the human element in situations and can increase their feelings of empathy.


Enneagram Compatibility: Type 1s in Relationships

Learn more about Perfectionist 1s in relationships in “The Nine Keys: A Guide Book To Unlock Your Relationships Using Kundalini Yoga and the Enneagram.”


Tools to Relax the Habit of Attention for Enneagram Type 1s


The information on this page is excerpted from Headstart from Happiness and The Nine Keys by Lynn Roulo.


Additional resources for Enneagram Type 1s

Download Your Free Ebook “3-Minute Meditations for Each Enneagram Type"

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