A man sits at a desk working on a project.

At their best, Enneagram Ones inspire people with their go-getting attitude and high standards. At their worst, they risk slipping into what’s known as toxic perfectionism. This happens when their need for perfection becomes so extreme they lose all sense of reality over what is a reasonable standard of achievement and risk burning out. 

If you’re a One, here are 10 signs you’re heading for toxic perfectionism and how to fix it. 

1. Finding fault with everyone 

Ones hold themselves to high standards, but they also shift those standards onto those around them. As a One, you might get annoyed that things are not being done correctly until you do them. Taken to its toxic extreme, you may become so critical and controlling of others that it causes them to resent you. This earns you the reputation of being a control freak and puts unnecessary strain on your relationships.

How to fix it: Respectfully ask people what you want from them in terms of encouragement and support, and look for what they’re doing right instead of focusing on how you think they’re messing up. Remind yourself that there are many ways to complete a task, not just your way. 

2. Feeling of imposter syndrome 

Ever been crippled by self-doubt because you know you’re not good enough to achieve your goals? Toxic perfectionism can lead to one of the five types of imposter syndrome, where your standards for yourself are so high that you forever feel like a fraud. You spend your whole day fearing that you’re going to be criticized or caught out for not being good enough.

How to fix it: Focus on why you’re feeling this intense pressure. Are you riddled with self-doubt? Do you fear that the world will judge you for your mistakes? Is your definition of a mistake different from everyone else’s? Owning your flaws starts with figuring out what your flaws actually are, not what your inflated inner critic says they might be. Once you know your true flaws, you can work on them. 

3. Having a debilitating fear of failure 

Setting lofty goals puts you at a higher risk of not achieving them. In the throes of toxic perfectionism, you might feel like you can achieve your goals but only if you go the extra mile, no matter what. The result? Tons of stress and burning out in your impossible pursuits. While Ones don’t like hearing that they can’t do something, beneath this lies an intense fear of failure. Ironically, it can actually cause you to fail because you’re putting so much pressure on yourself. 

How to fix it: Challenge your view of failure. There are opportunities for growth in failing, but you might be viewing situations as failures when they’re not. For example, if you wrote 10 things on your to-do list but only managed to achieve eight, that’s not a failure! Focus on what you’ve achieved instead to give yourself some perspective. 

4. Nurturing an all-or-nothing mindset 

Ones are all-or-nothing perfectionists. They jump in and give a project their full attention or don’t even try. But, in toxic perfectionism, this all-or-nothing mindset can cause Ones to miss opportunities. They might think, “If I can’t work out for two hours straight, I’m not going to the gym” or “If I don’t have time to write a book, I’m not going to start the first chapter.” 

How to fix it: Reframe your expectations. Focus on what you can do with the time and energy you have at your disposal, and you’ll see how much you can achieve. Breaking large goals into smaller steps also helps you to achieve them over time in a more realistic way.

5. Lacking a healthy work-life balance 

It’s more challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance as you get older because you have more demands to juggle, and this is a big challenge for Ones. Toxic perfectionism can force you to hyper-focus on the most urgent and high-stakes task – which is work, more often than not. It’s easy to alienate important people in your life because maintaining relationships is difficult when you’re so focused on your work goals

How to fix it: Start small. Try to unplug from your devices when you’re home with your partner or family so work-related worries aren’t intrusive. During your spare time, try to give your full attention to other people and things you enjoy doing for fun. Mindfulness or grounding techniques can help relieve anxiety you might experience at first. 

6. Basing self-worth on achievements

Type Ones tend to feel unworthy if they don’t achieve something. Their self-worth is so tightly linked to their success that they don’t know how to feel good about themselves when they’re not working hard. This has negative effects, such as causing you to peg your identity solely to your achievements and preventing you from exploring other aspects of yourself outside of work and other competitive arenas. 

How to fix it: Pay attention to what makes you a good person when you’re not striving to succeed. If you make your career goals the only valuable thing about you, this can lead to stress and isolate you from other people, while sucking the enjoyment out of life.

7. Procrastinating on tasks  

When healthy, Ones work diligently towards their goals and are highly organized. When unhealthy, they lapse into procrastination. For example, they might put off starting a task because they fear they won’t do it perfectly. Or they might add layers of extra complexity into a project because they want their output to be the best it can possibly be (which often is a far better standard than the project actually requires).  

How to fix it: Challenge the ideas surrounding your anxieties. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you cut a few corners, achieve a smaller goal, or adjust your definition of success? This can help you to have a greater perspective. Break down the fears so you don’t allow them to control you. 

8. Avoiding victory celebrations 

When you succeed at something, you might struggle to pop the champagne to celebrate. As a One, you’re probably already thinking about the next challenge or task on your to-do list. You might fail to celebrate mini achievements because you’re too busy finding fault with them. 

How to fix it: Stop and think about how hard you worked at achieving your goal. You might have to reel in a supportive loved one who always reminds you of how successful you are. Try to see yourself from another person’s perspective because we sometimes lose sight of our achievements and positive traits. 

9. Staying in your comfort zone 

Although Type Ones are inspiring to others because they are so conscientious and values-driven, being too obsessed with perfectionism means they are reluctant to step out of their comfort zone for fear of failing or making a mistake. You stick to what you know where you can’t experience much failure. That’s limiting, and reduces your opportunities for happiness.

How to fix it: Try to embrace change, even a small one! While you might be resistant to changing how you do things or new challenges, they can open you up to a better way of doing things or an exciting new situation. Taking on a new challenge can be a good way to explore different parts of life and yourself.

10. Being highly defensive of critical feedback 

Since Type Ones can be highly self-critical, they tend to be overly sensitive and defensive to critical feedback from others. This can make it difficult for people to work with you. Others might be afraid to tell you what they honestly think, which can cause you to lack trust in relationships. 

How to fix it: See critical feedback as a learning opportunity. Not only does it encourage self-improvement and growth, but you’ll be seen as someone who’s easy to work with and eager to continuously improve.

Giulia Thompson

Giulia Thompson is an Italian-South African freelance writer and editor with several years of experience in print and online media. She lives in a small town in South Africa with her husband and three cats. She loves reading, writing, and watching thrillers. As an Enneagram Type 4, she’s creative and loves surrounding herself with beauty.