Personality Typing Your Favorite Characters
A series dedicated to evaluating well-written characters by determining their core desires and fears using the Enneagram.
After a long and arduous journey, I discovered Midoriya of My Hero Academia was NOT a deep-thinking Type Five. But do his anxious traits mark him as the security-focused Type Six?
This post will contain spoilers for
My Hero Academia
Warning: This post contains a brief mention of suicide. Reader discretion is advised.
As we discussed last week, the Six’s “Basic Fear” is to be left “without support and guidance,” and their “Basic Desire” is “[t]o have security and support.”1 While these traits are far clearer in our poster child Six Mikasa Akerman of Attack on Titan, I believe they’re no less true of Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. But to find out how—and why—Midoriya desires security at his core, we need to examine his greatest desire: his dream to become a hero like All Might.
It’s no secret that Midoriya is obsessed with All Might. But why?
At first glance, this seems a silly question. All Might is brave, strong, kind, and confident. He’s the perfect power fantasy for a child who was constantly bullied by his peers for being “quirkless”—that is, literally powerless.
But is Midoriya’s obsession with All Might a power fantasy?
People generally gravitate toward power fantasies because they see something lacking in themselves; the fantasy allows them an “easy way” to surpass their shortcomings or problems by imagining a world in which they don’t exist. But a power fantasy is just that: a fantasy. People generally don’t take steps to make their power fantasies a reality because they find the fantasy unattainable.
But Midoriya doesn’t just idolize All Might or want to be like All Might; he wants to become a real hero. All Might is his inspiration and a goal to attain, not simply an “I wish I were more like” idealized figure. Therefore, All Might is not a power fantasy, forever out of Midoriya’s reach. Rather, Midoriya idolizes All Might because he finds All Might’s ideals—primarily his desire to protect others with no concern for his own wellbeing—to be in line with Midoriya’s own concept of the right way to live.
But why does Midoriya cherish these ideals and the man who upholds them?
This was actually the point I struggled with most while analyzing Midoriya’s personality. Why is Midoriya so focused on becoming a hero? Simple personal preference isn’t strong enough to propel Midoriya’s dogged determination. But surely something this important to Midoriya had to connect to his basic desire and key fear.
And so it does; you see, Midoriya is obsessed with security and safety, if not for himself than for others.
Sixes see the world as a chaotic, frightening place and are constantly “fight[ing] against [their] anxiety and insecurity”2 to find peace. While bodily harm is perhaps an extreme case of “lack of security,” it is no less one that Midoriya has set his sights on overcoming: though not necessarily for himself, but—due to his selfless nature—primarily for others. Midoriya values All Might for his ability to rescue others from physical harm while helping them feel emotionally secure; as Midoriya points out as a child, “He saves everyone with a smile, no matter what trouble they’re in…”3 Midoriya particularly values this quality because he himself lives in a constant state of anxiety.
We see this anxiety clearly on display, especially at the beginning of the series. Growing up, Midoriya’s childhood playmate Bakugo mercilessly bullied Midoriya and anyone else Bakugo deemed inferior. This was a primary cause of Midoriya’s anxiety and lack of self-confidence, and it caused Midoriya to slowly fade into the background as one of Bakugo’s yes-men sidekicks.
However, even as a fearful child, Midoriya possessed keen concern for peace and stability… for others. When Bakugo bullied another student, Midoriya jumped in the way, pleading with him to stop despite knowing it would likely pull Bakugo’s ire onto himself. Still, Midoriya cared so deeply for this other student’s security that he was willing to challenge Bakugo.
By the time Midoriya finds himself finishing middleschool, little has changed except his increased state of anxiety. He seeks to make as few waves as possible—and will do anything to soothe Bakugo’s wrath. It’s here that Midoriya’s behavior perfectly reflects an unhealthy, under-developed Six: “Fearing that they have ruined their security, they become panicky, volatile, and self-disparaging with acute inferiority feelings.”4 Midoriya constantly belittles himself and feels he is inferior and incapable. He constantly questions himself and his decisions.
He’s clearly lost trust in himself… which only reinforces his attachment to All Might. “Seeing themselves as defenseless, [Sixes] seek out a stronger authority or belief to resolve all problems.”5 And once Sixes find such an anchor, they refuse to let go.
[O]nce Sixes feel they can trust someone, they go to great lengths to maintain connections with the person who acts as a sounding board, a mentor… They therefore do everything in their power to keep their affiliations going. (‘If I don’t trust myself, then I have to find something in this world I can trust.’)6
This is exactly how Midoriya clings to All Might. All Might is Midoriya’s “sounding board and mentor.” All Might brings a stability and assurance to Midoriya’s life that he often feels he would not have otherwise.
Midoriya requires this stability for his emotional wellbeing, and this only allows him to appreciate others’ needs for security all the more. He understands what it feels like to be in an uncertain world, to be left afraid and without an anchor to rely on. And he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure no one else is left in this fearful position.
The Enneagram nicknames Sixes “The Loyalist” due to their unparalleled loyalty not only to their anchor person but also to their core beliefs. “[T]hey will typically fight for their beliefs more fiercely than they will fight for themselves, and they will defend their community or family more tenaciously than they will defend themselves.7
Just like how Midoriya is willing to put his life on the line to defend others.
Midoriya’s “belief” is that the world should be a place where people can live lives free of the anxiety that has plagued him. It is this belief in heroism (protecting others) that Midoriya values above all else. It is this belief that spurs his love for All Might. And it is this belief that he will work toward no matter what… even at the cost of his life.
Needless to say, a Six’s loyalty is a ferocious and admirable quality indeed. But there was one last aspect about this quality that sounded shockingly like Midoriya: “[Sixes] will ‘go down with the ship’ and hang on to relationships of all kinds and hang on to relationships of all kinds far longer than most other types.”8
Just like how Midoriya has continued to hold onto a relationship with a person he once considered his friend: Bakugo.
Six and Eight: Midoriya’s Relationship with Bakugo
Midoriya’s relationship with Bakugo serves as the final point to prove Midoriya is a Six. Midoriya and Bakugo are such strong foils because of their respective personality types: the loyal Six and the powerful Eight. If healthy, these two personalities make a powerful pair. But if either are unhealthy, tension is sure to follow…
Sixes who are more openly phobic (fearful, timid, anxious) generally tend to avoid confrontations with Eights; instead, they tend to present no open threat to the Eight’s dominance, while being covertly passive-aggressive and evasive. Eights can get into conflicts with phobic Sixes by sensing their indirect, questioning qualities—and whether or not the Six is as loyal to the Eight as the Eight wants. Eights may become more or less openly contemptuous of them if they feel the Six is weak or vacillating. Problems in this relationship can be exacerbated by the Eight’s tendency to get into rages, to make threats to the Six’s security, or to bully and play on weaknesses.9
Midoriya clearly begins the show as a phobic Six, doing everything within his power to avoid and deescalate confrontations with Bakugo. However, we do see a glimmer of Midoriya’s passive-aggression when he comments how stupid Bakugo is to suggest Midoriya jump off a building and pray for a quirk in the next life.
Bakugo does consider Midoriya weak; and this is where much of Bakugo’s contempt for Midoriya originates. However, as with many unhealthy relationships, the situation is far more complicated than it initially appears.
In general, Eights tend to take the lead in most relationships they are in and to set the tone and make decisions. They expect others to obey them and to be loyal to them… For the most part, this is also fine with Sixes, except for those times when Sixes feel the need to push back and to prove themselves. They need to show others (including the Eight) that they cannot be pushed around or taken advantage of. Power struggles of all kinds can ensue. This is especially true of ‘counterphobic’ Sixes who can actually react much like Eights, displaying leadership, decisiveness and independence… Sixes who are more counterphobic tend to get into more open fights with Eights until both have determined their territory and just how far each can push the other.10
This is almost word-for-word Midoriya’s relationship with Bakugo during the latter half of season three. Having grown into a more stable Six, Midoriya has also become more counterphobic, willing to stand up to Bakugo and counter his presumed authority. It’s only after Midoriya and Bakugo fight one-on-one that they discover each other’s reestablished boundaries and can begin to form at least a modicum of mutual respect.
Conclusion: Midoriya’s Growth
Midoriya’s growth arc is, of course, about developing his superpower, but the personal growth he attains is arguably more important. Much like Sixes in the real world, Midoriya must develop confidence in himself and his own abilities while still holding realistic views on his shortcomings and knowing when and how to rely on the bonds he’s forged with other heroes around him. This is what All Might means when he says that both Midoriya and Bakugo possess aspects needed to become the Number-One Hero: while Midoriya has the compassion and drive to protect that’s needed to become a hero, Bakugo has the inner confidence required to succeed.11
What’s truly amazing is how far Midoriya has already come, growing emotionally from seasons one to four and already displaying many of the traits that healthy Sixes display.
As early as season one, we see Midoriya beginning to come into his own. He possesses an almost innate charisma, in large part due to his trustworthy nature and his dedication to his friends and his ideals. These are all hallmarks of a healthy Six: “[They are] [a]ble to elicit strong emotional responses from others: very appealing, endearing, lovable… Trust [is] important: bonding with others, [and] forming permanent relationships and alliances.”12
Then in season two we see how Midoriya’s knack for being “[c]onstantly vigilant” allows him to “anticipat[e] problems,” battling against opponents even when the odds are against him.13
When they learn to face their anxieties… Sixes understand that although the world is always changing and is, by nature uncertain, they can be serene and courageous in any circumstance. And they can attain the greatest gift of all, a sense of peace with themselves despite the uncertainties of life.14
The world—and the situations Midoriya must overcome—are constantly changing, evolving: growing in complexity and danger. But Midoriya too has grown; we see this most clearly in his fight with the powerful villain Muscular. Despite his fear, Midoriya is able to overcome the villain single-handedly due to his increased confidence in himself, giving him the drive and skills to protect a nearby child, Kota, no matter the cost.
And this confidence comes about only due to the greater levels of inner peace Midoriya has obtained through his training and experience. Midoriya’s fight with Muscular gives him even more newfound confidence, to the point where, by the time he and his classmates must compete with more experienced students to earn their Provisional Hero Licenses, Midoriya has become a trusted leader among his classmates. “Belief in self leads to true courage, positive thinking, leadership, and rich self-expression.”15
In season one, Midoriya commits acts of heroism with little thought, acting purely out of instinct before considering his plan of attack. But with each new experience he’s overcome, Midoriya gains more and more skill, remaining level-headed, observant, and resourceful in a pinch. The Midoriya of season one would have never been able to keep calm long enough to hold his own against Todoroki in the UA Sports Festival or to stand his ground and protect Kota at all costs or to prove himself to the stringent hero Sir Nighteye to gain a work-study at his hero agency. Nor would he have been able to stare a villain in the face while still largely maintaining his composure.
“At their [b]est,” the Enneagram Institute says, Sixes are “internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.”16
Midoriya may still have insecurities and struggles, but he has already learned to rely on himself a great deal. He has learned firsthand that he can stand tall, fighting for his beliefs to become a hero all his own.
Want more My Hero?
Check out my thoughts on season three and my hopes for the newest season!
Or, if that’s not up your alley, how about these shocking parallels between All Might and… Christianity?!
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Notes and References:
- Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types (New York City, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 1999), 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 25, 2019.
- Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Izuku Midoriya: Origin,” Episode 1, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, April 3, 2016, Funimation.
- Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],”.
- “Enneagram Type Six (the Loyalist) with Enneagram Type Eight (the Challenger),” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 25, 2019.
- As a side-note, this kind of confidence is not mutually exclusive to crippling and harmful low self-esteem and self-doubt or self-loathing. This is no “perfect” confidence by which the person believes they can never and will never be wrong or defeated (though Bakugo certainly possessed such levels of over-confidence at the beginning of the show). Rather, this is self-confidence on a deeper level; the belief that one can make the right calls and the decisiveness to stand by one’s decisions rather than questioning one’s choices.
- Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],”.
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