Hi, my name is Gretchen, and I’m a Type 1 Perfectionist
My fingernails look like they’ve been painted with a chair. Smudges and smears and outside the lines. Why? I am a perfectionist, so what’s the deal with my ratchet nails? One word: stillness. I hate being still. Thus, I NEVER wait for my nails to dry before I am off curling my hair or folding laundry or some other terrible choice that will inevitably destroy my paint job.
This hatred of all things stillness is not to be confused with being seated or even laying down. I am good at those things. Like Olympic gold medalist at sedentary lifestyle. But I don’t really remember the last time I was ever just still. Not listening. Or planning. Or reading. Or watching. Or writing. Or making. I am a queen at multitasking. My web browser has so many tabs open that they are almost microscopic. During the summer, I am tidying my house or scrapbooking the millions of photos of my kids. I’ve been known to make elaborate family Halloween ensembles and do the bulk of my Christmas shopping in July. Even when I am “resting,” I am doing something. When I do my makeup, I am listening to a podcast or audiobook or online sermon or Netflix show. If I lay down to rest, I am reading a book.
This has served me well in so many ways. I am productive. I meet goals. I finish tasks. I learn a lot. My house is usually clean. My kids have amazing memory books. I work out even though I hate it. I actually read through the entire Bible in a year last year. I have completed a ton of stuff off of my Pinterest boards. As a teacher, I am super organized. I push myself to give almost immediate feedback even on big projects. They say teachers make up to 1,500 educational decisions a day, and that feels low to me if I’m being honest.
Now I know you want to push me down the stairs right now because you might not be an Enneagram One, so maybe you can’t say any of the above. But I promise, friends, it isn’t at all as glamorous as it sounds. There are pros and cons to every type.
I heard another Perfectionist recently describe our afflictions so, well, perfectly, of course. She described it as walking into a room and noticing everything that is wrong. With the environment. With our people. With ourselves the most (no one can call us hypocritical). When this type is in disintegration, it’s like having the largest, harshest, loudest inner critics. It’s duty before play. It’s critical and negative and a joylessness. I can never do enough or be enough, and no amount of doing or being fills the void.
It is barking at your children and your husband in a reactionary state about something dumb like syrup stuck to the table or a messy toy room. It’s leaving a party that is in full swing to clean up the mess. We don’t believe that those things are actually more important than relationship or having fun, but when in that “lizard”/reactionary brain space, it definitely manifests that way.
And another hallmark of the One is anger and resentment. Because it really is no bueno when you look around at everyone else relaxing or enjoying life. You begin to become critical of how they operate, and you can become envious of the peace they’ve cultivated without doing all the work you think is necessary.
It’s ugly and damaging and counter-intuitive to what the One in health is made to do: to improve, to add integrity, to bring things back to serenity because we believe it is possible and essential.
Guys, this is such deep and rich work. It is hard and beautiful too. It takes so much courage to identify childhood woundings that formed your personality. To be able to say this is why I react how I react, and this is how I am going to avoid disintegration into those darker tendencies.
Finding your type and learning how you disintegrate and integrate, what your fears and passions and fixations are, and how your type can positively and negatively impact those closest to you is immensely worthwhile.
I am only scratching the surface, and I am way behind the trend. I am only now learning that every type has a call to contemplative prayer that brings you back to a more centered, healthy state of being (I know it sounds kind of hoodoo-y, but it really is rooted in the Bible and has had great results for lots of people). Oh, I bet you can’t guess what my prayer posture looks like! Yup, resting in...stillness.
I tried it today. The author of the book I read recommended starting with five minutes of stillness and working your way up. The perfectionist in me was all, “I’ve got this. Five minutes is nothing.” By minute two my left eye was twitching. It sucked. It reminded me why I never let my nails dry.
If I believe the lie that I am what I do, then I have to constantly do to have worth. And that is not what God says.
God was about Holy Sabbath Rest. Jesus slept in the boat on a stormy sea. He fasted in the desert. He retreated in solitude to be close to His Father.
All of this will probably look way different for you (unless you are a One, in which case, what’s up sisters?). That is the beauty of the Enneagram that I am finding. Yes, I am a One, but my husband is a solid Seven (traits include: nothing has to be perfect, everything is fun, no need to plan or worry). I have to learn to give grace to myself and to him because, Lord knows, it ain’t easy.
I have to see the unique traits in others as a compliment to my sensibilities and not as an affront, and I need to learn to love my people how they need to be loved.
I can learn to see the mess left behind not as a personal insult to myself but as a blessing to my family because the mess from breakfast still sitting there means that my kids get extra time laughing in the backyard with their super fun daddy.
Like I said, I am far from perfect in this, but in true One fashion, I am not giving up.
If you discover your type, leave a comment below!
Check out the resources below if you want to learn more:
Podcast: Typology with Ian Morgan Cron
Book: The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz
A few thoughts/reactions:
1) Apologies for taking so long to really dig into reading this – I have been missing out, and …
2) I am also a 1 (#sisterwives4eva), and one of my “calm the F down and look at what is actually important in your life, you ridiculous sasquatch” goals is to really engage with the things and people in my life who are truly important to me – ergo, I am actually reading your blog!
3) Genuinely snotted on myself at “Yes, I am a One, but my husband is a solid Seven (traits include: nothing has to be perfect, everything is fun, no need to plan or worry)” because, yes, yes, yes – so much understanding. Both in knowing sevens, but also in loving them (while sometimes, internally, having a horror-freak-out).
4) SO much yes to “If I believe the lie that I am what I do, then I have to constantly do to have worth.” I struggle a LOT with this because I find that my happiness and mood are greatly elevated when I am productive and creative, but it is so easy to conflate self-worth with productivity, accomplishment, success… It reminds me of a TED Talk by Shawn Achor where he talks about the harmful way our society often looks at success: happiness increases based on a promotion, for example, and then another promotion is required to keep that feeling, and another, and another… and we eventually forget how to be happy without having something “better.”
And finally, 5) “By minute two my left eye was twitching. It sucked. It reminded me why I never let my nails dry.” Next time… paint your nails first. Two birds with one stone. 🙂
Love you, G, so much. Thank you for all you are, all you do, and for sharing yourself with the world.
Aww! Love you, Daniel! Your friendship is invaluable to me. SO thankful I get to do life with you!