How did I know I was an Enneagram type One? A single word: anger.
Many people after initially meeting me will tell me that I seem like such a laid-back, easy-going person – that they couldn’t imagine what I would look like angry. What they don’t know is that anger is second nature to me, it’s frequently raging under the surface while on the outside I’m trying to appear calm and collected.
I guess that’s pretty textbook for type Ones. Here’s an excerpt about Ones from The Enneagram Institute:
“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.”
So how does this anger manifest itself for me? If I’m honest, many times it comes out as anger or annoyance with other people. A lot of Ones have an “inner critic” that they can’t get out of their head, and it’s constantly telling them that they could have done better. It’s easy to see why Ones are labeled the “Perfectionist.” My inner critic is there, but it is more outwardly focused. I notice when things are out of place in my environment, when there’s too much clutter for example. I also notice when other people aren’t following the rules – I’m a BIG rule-follower, which I think is also pretty typical for Ones.
I have a hard time when things are not fair – it makes me angry (go figure.) I prefer for most things to be done in a structured and orderly manner, and when things are too chaotic or by-the-seat-of-your-pants, I tend to think they could have been done better with a little more planning and effort. I hold myself to high standards and want others to do the same.
But the reality is most people don’t have the same standards I do… so I end up setting myself up for a lot of disappointment (or anger – are you catching on?… literally everything has the potential to make me angry.)
It’s a bit embarrassing to say that I struggle so much with anger. I frequently find myself wishing to be a person who can just play it cool, that lets things roll off of them, and is care-free most of the time. (That is pretty much my husband – he’s a Type 9.)
But the Enneagram’s purpose is not to compare yourself to others, or to wish that you were a “better” number. There’s no “better” or “best” number, they all have strengths and weaknesses.
The Enneagram is a helpful tool to discover more about yourself, and then accept what you’ve learned with self-compassion. Accepting yourself doesn’t mean you find excuses to be the worst version of yourself (like for example: “I’m a One so I guess I deserve to be angry all the time!”) With self-awareness and acceptance, you can move forward to growing into the best version of yourself – which is really the heart of why the Enneagram is so valuable.
Accepting my “One-ness” has allowed me to have compassion for my flaws, and become a healthier version of myself. I wish that anger was not an emotion consistently so close to the surface for me – but it is. That is not going to change, it’s how I’m hard-wired as a One. AND THAT IS OKAY! Again, I don’t use that knowledge as an excuse to just blow up all the time or use my anger against others. Instead, I’m using my anger for good. Let me give you some examples:
Anger is my default emotion. But often my anger is trying to cover up a more vulnerable emotion that I am not aware of. Emotions like fear, shame or guilt. Anger is showing up for me because it’s my body’s way of protecting myself from hurting – obviously no one wants to feel fear or shame. Anger feels so much more powerful. So what I have to do when I immediately get angry, is take some time to sit with my feelings and ask myself if there’s something deeper going on. (And many times there is.) For techniques on how to process through difficult emotions in a nonjudgmental way, check out the book Boundaries for Your Soul.
Another way I can use my anger for good is to make the world a better place for myself and others. Since, as a One, I easily notice what’s wrong with my surroundings, I can use my anger to fuel my passion towards being a “noble change maker” – for being an advocate for justice and goodness. Now obviously I can’t change everything that’s wrong with the world by myself, and it can quickly get overwhelming to notice everything that’s not okay. But I have a strong desire to make a difference and to help others, and that comes directly from my personality make-up as a One. And for that I’m thankful.
This post is Part 1 of a series I’m planning to write about the Enneagram. I’m not sure how I’ve avoided writing about the Enneagram for this long – it’s been so instrumental in my journey towards wellness and self-growth! Stay tuned for my next post which will describe how I’ve used the Enneagram to help strengthen my marriage.