Moving Beyond Your Number: Enneagram Ones

You are not your Number. Although most of us act as though our number is our definitive identity most days, our personality is a mask we wear because we have forgotten our true identity. With this in mind, this series of articles will seek to name number-specific compulsions in an effort to find freedom from our familiar, habitual, and compulsive way of being in the world. To name something is to have power of it.

In the case of the Enneagram, to name our behavioral patterns and inner realities robs at least some of the power these things wield over us. You can’t change what you can’t name. Conversely, when you name the anatomy of your personality, you can find ways to move beyond your number.

Ones fear they will be corrupted by evil, so they try to put on goodness like so much wallpaper. They do this in hope that they might be saved, but ones can only be saved by surrendering their desire FOR and obsession WITH perfection. They have to abandon their compulsion to will themselves into a state of righteousness, in part because they lose who they are in their push to get everything right. Ones over identify with the rules and mores of the culture until they lose their unique identity.

Surprisingly, ones can shirk their responsibilities at times because it is so terribly burdensome to be plagued by the nagging sense that they have to get it all right. This is all compounded by the fact that it is hard to take on more responsibility than what they are already carrying.

Ones seek to justify their anger by finding a righteous cause. There are so many terrible things in the world to be angry about. And ones will hang their anger on these things, but they ultimately must come to terms with the fact they are not merely angry, but afraid. Sit with that, ones, and instead of organizing your life, feel your fear.

Ones compulsively organize their lives in order to control their anger. This need to do it all perfectly is a symptom of their need for power and control. This is why Richard Rohr (a one Enneagram master) says, “When the world is going to hell, I clean my bathroom.” Surprisingly, ones are prone to fall into an ethical or moral trap door of sorts. This process begins when they feel like it is not okay to be angry, and then they join righteous movements where it is acceptable to be angry about social or moral injustices. However, they often act out in the area that they preach the loudest against. They create an alter ego where they misbehave. Maybe they fall into a pornography trap or overeat, over exercise, or overspend. In any case, they fall into something that their best self finds repulsive. Why? Because they have a standard that they cannot maintain and so their bad behavior finds a place to spill out. They feel deep shame around where they fall short, but they respond with anger.

I will conclude with a few steps you might consider taking for growth. First, look to cultivate uniqueness in your life as opposed to perfection. You might consider placing a message on a card where you will see it: “Cultivate uniqueness in the place of perceived perfection.” You get your uniqueness from four. Lean into it. I have a one friend who started making craft soda at home. If you love a one, don’t negate a one’s desire to do something better, and if you feel the need to correct their behavior in, say, a professional setting, ask them about their performance first. Chances are, they already know all the ways that they are missing the mark. This will save them the pain that inevitably comes when someone points out a flaw that they already know so well. Remember, ones, your conversations with a voice of condemnation is not thinking. Perhaps this is clue as to why they call Satan the accuser. Finally, find a mantra or a song that will interrupt the vilifying voices and remind you that you are beloved child of God. You are loved before you did anything right or wrong.