One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to find their Enneagram type is that they over-identify with a single specific trait. For example, someone who over-identifies with anger might assume they are an Enneagram type 8, another with anxiety assumes they are a Type 6, while someone who identifies with helpfulness assumes they are a Type 2.
It is worth remembering that to be an Enneagram type you are “most of the things, most of the time,” and as human beings, we are complex individuals. It isn’t a single trait that makes you an Enneagram type but rather a full personality profile. And at the center of the profile is your habit of attention.
One place this overidentification is apparent is around the issue of anxiety, seen both in the Enneagram Type 1, Perfectionist and the Type 6, Skeptic, as well as several other types. Let’s take a closer look at how these two types can be confused.
Type 1s and Type 6s both have a strong sense of duty and responsibility. Both can be loyal, idealistic, and forward-thinking, anticipating what could go wrong and trying hard to avert negative outcomes. Often serious people, Type 1s and Type 6s put work before play and exercise prudent, methodical decision-making. These two personality styles share the fundamental values of trust, respect, fairness, reliability, and stability. And importantly, both can experience intense anxiety, feeling that the future is uncertain.
It is worth noting that the subtypes of Type 1 and Type 6 can play into mistyping. The self-preservation Type 1 has the title “Worry” and is most likely to be confused with Type 6. Self-preservation Type 1s worry a lot and have a theme around anxiety. They have a drive to plan everything out and a strong desire to try to keep things under control. They can be overly responsible and can worry excessively about details, even when things are going well. This Type 1 can look like Type 6 in the way they experience nervousness about the future and work hard to avoid blame.
Despite these similarities, these two types are quite different. If you study Enneagram theory, you see that Type 6 is in the mental/head center and has a sensitive issue around anxiety. They spend a lot of time worrying about the future and have difficulty focusing on the present moment. Type 1 is a body/instinctive type with a sensitive issue around anger. This is someone who represses inner anger, replacing it with a drive to act properly and correctly.
These two types have very different habits of attention. Type 1s focus on what could be improved and perfected. They have an eye for a better future, and as an action-oriented type, they take concrete steps to manifest this vision. They have a hard time leaving things as “good enough.”
Type 6s focus on security, and their mind gravitates to threats in their environment. They have a desire for safety, and they vigilantly scan for threats, real and imagined. They have a hard time believing positive or even more moderate scenarios as their mind easily paints a worst-case scenario picture.
If you’ve felt confused about whether you might be a Type 1 or a Type 6, ask yourself these four questions:
1. Do you doubt your own decision-making?
Type 1s tend to feel confident in their decision-making. Their minds are practical and methodical, and once they arrive at a decision, they know how they got there. While their thought process may be long and involved, they rarely experience a lot of second-guessing after they have reached a conclusion.
Type 6s, on the other hand, are almost famous for their self-doubt. They may make a decision but then second guess it. And then they may second guess their second guessing. Because anxiety is so prominent in their mental process, reaching clarity can be difficult. Type 6s can go in circles around a single issue because no conclusion alleviates their anxiety. They can feel intense indecision.
2. Is it difficult to imagine a best-case scenario or a positive future?
The Type 6 habit of attention points to the negative, and it is easy for them to imagine what could go wrong or what could be dangerous in a situation. As such, they have a harder time seeing what could go right or envisioning a positive future. Their mind focuses on the hurdles and threats, and they spend a lot of mental energy working on how to overcome these obstacles and stay safe.
Type 1s can have a more balanced view, and while their mind might focus on what needs to change, they can also appreciate the positive elements of a situation and imagine a bright future. This ideal future can sometimes serve as a compass to a Type 1 and may be the goal they work hard to achieve. While practical and process-oriented, Type 1s can also be dreamers, imagining a beautiful future.
3. Have you felt frustration and resentment that you are often the one working to make things better for everyone else?
Type 1s can be overly responsible, and they work hard to make the world a better place, avert calamity, and avoid personal blame. They can be seen as controlling as they work hard to get all the details right. A lot of their energy goes towards these improvement goals, and beneath it all, there can be unexpressed anger that presents itself as resentment, frustration, or irritation. Type 1s often feel frustrated that they have to lead these efforts.
Type 6s, on the other hand, are more focused on managing their anxiety. They are less concerned about “who is doing what” and more focused on the outcome, feeling deeply anxious about the future. Their mental attention goes to preparing for an uncertain future, and they can have a hard time feeling like any of their efforts are enough to safeguard them. If they feel frustration, it is not around the division of labor but a fear that not enough is being done.
4. How important is reassurance from others?
It is an almost universal human trait that people appreciate getting reassurance from others, particularly people they are close to and respect. However, this appreciation has varying degrees of importance for different personality styles. Some of us like reassurance but are more self-directed and don’t need it that much. And some of us require regular reassurance to have feelings of wellness and stability. Type 6s tend to fall into the second category. Because they have very anxious minds, getting consistent, genuine reassurance from others is important. For example, Type 6s happily married for over 40 years might report they still have feelings of insecurity and need to regularly hear words of support and commitment from their spouse. While they may rationally understand the relationship is stable and secure, they still don’t feel that way.
Type 1s have a more moderate need for reassurance and tend to be more self-directed and self-confident. They can have faith in the future and believe that the people in their lives will not leave them, their jobs are not threatened, and so forth. While they may appreciate reassurance, they don’t need it as much.
In understanding the nuances of Type 1 and Type 6 you can see how external behavior doesn’t always fully express someone’s internal world. Worry may be a common theme for both these types, but the origination point is quite different. These subtle yet fundamental differences are part of what makes the Enneagram system so robust and comprehensive. It allows you to get to the root cause of someone else’s experience, and from there, you can start to cultivate compassion.