It Takes All Kinds    Type 1

(This article appeared in Mueller Living, April 2017, as part of a series. For more information about the enneagram go to enneagramtexas.com)

Some people are easier to appreciate than others. At least, at first.

Whether a community is  comprised of thousands or is small, like a family—parents and kids—what makes it wonderful is shared feelings and beliefs. What can make it challenging is our differences. In a community of any size there will always be opposing opinions, beliefs and personalities. Ultimately, these differences provide the texture and richness of the group. For a healthy community, it really does take all kinds.  

In our work as therapists, we often teach classes about personality types so that people living or working together come to understand and appreciate their differences.  We base these classes on a model known as the enneagram where “ennea" means “nine."  It describes nine fundamentally different world views that shape our personality. In learning about oneself and others, we begin to understand the intrinsic logic behind all personalities and eventually learn to stand in another’s shoes. We become better community members when we understand that it takes all kinds.

We have listened to panels of personality types speak about themselves around the country and in France and the Czech Republic where the enneagram is used in the school system. We’ve also conducted panel interviews  of personality types for the last twelve years, and are amazed by the universality of the different viewpoints.

In the coming months, in this column, we will explore all the personality types, almost evenly distributed among the population. This month we will begin with the Perfectionists.

 

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If I identify with Perfectionists:

 I have high standards. I look at the world and see what should be. I want everything to be just so and it’s hard to relax when things aren't right. My attention automatically goes to what’s wrong, and so I can be critical. But this judging is also directed toward myself, which causes me stress as I always try to please my inner critic. What’s worse is that I think it’s wrong to be critical.

Somewhere, deep within me, I believe my life depends on doing things right and making no mistakes.  I’ll do anything to avoid error or being out of control.

At home: I want others to go along with me because I know I'm right. I try to conceal my anger, but often come across as irritable. I like that people feel they can count on me. I do a lot of chores. I make lists which I love to check off.

At work: I’m often the one who comes early and stays late. I’ve never understood people who leave just because it’s five o’clock. I tend to be a leader because I care so much about excellence and that makes others feel secure. Some people see me as overly critical but I pride myself on being responsible and doing things right. As a child in school, teachers liked me.

In the community:  I can be a visionary because of my ability to see what needs fixing. My beliefs about what’s right can inspire me to be an agent of social change. People rely on me and trust me to do the honest, responsible thing. If you give me a task, it will be done well.

What pushes my buttons? Slackers.

Something people who love me often say to me: Could you just chill? 

The things I have to be aware of so I can grow include my automatic judgment of what’s right or wrong. Sometimes I need to see that some people don’t see it like I do, and I can get a kick out of seeing another person might have a better idea. But not often. I need to accept that I can’t actually be perfect, and that sometimes all the striving is too stressful. 

Don’t confuse me with another type who works hard but will cut corners. I do not cut corners. And don’t confuse me with the overpowering type that is comfortable with anger and confrontation. All of that seems inappropriate to me.

 

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With each type we hope you’ll be able to see that a person’s strength can also be a source of difficulty for him or her. 

Differing points of view can often be a wellspring of friction, but with understanding, the friction creates the necessary fire to power a healthy community.