According to Harry Burns in the movie Harry Met Sally (1989), there are three types of women. High maintenance, low maintenance, and high maintenance women who think that they are low maintenance.

Chauvinism aside, Harry has good insight into human nature.

  • How much more do we prefer an idealised version of ourselves? 
  • What do we know about ourselves that we turn a blind eye to?
  • What is the good in us that we’re uncomfortable accepting?

In the leadership stakes, self-awareness is considered to be a pre-requisite. Although studies have shown that this is a rarer quality than you might think because self-knowledge is a combination of internal self-awareness (how we see and experience ourselves) and external self-awareness (how other people see and experience us).

But in my experience, knowing yourself isn’t enough. It’s accepting who you are that is truly liberating. 

This means embracing your talents, your foibles, your idiosyncrasies and limitations for what they are. We all have them. It’s what makes us human. And, in my opinion much more interesting to know.

But, in my experience, most people eschew such radical self-inquiry. Often this is because we think being emotionally intelligent is all fluff and woo-woo or we’re too emotionally squeamishness and can’t face what they might find out about ourselves.

Get to grips with this internal and external perspective of yourself and you’ll be happier, more creative and more satisfied in life and work. And, able to just lead better because you’re less likely to play the mind games that hold us back and reduce the friction in our relationships that can bring us down.

The added bonus of mental and emotional flossing is that it doesn’t just help us to operate better ourselves but helps us to better understand other people too. Self-empathy is the root of being more empathetic with others.

There’s a bit of Harry Burns in all of us. We judge other people with clarity but harbour vagueness about ourselves. Even the most self-knowing people are apt to dismiss the best and worst bits about themselves, leaving a muddled tangle in the mind to contend with.

In the past, people were interpreted on the basis of their personality types but thankfully people sciences, such as neuroscience and behavioural economics, are helping us know ourselves and others better based on the biological cues we get from our brain and the psychological clues we can read in other people’s behaviour.

Humans are complicated but thankfully there is a myriad of tools to help us bring an outside perspective to ourselves. 

There’s nothing like a good self-assessment quiz, profile, reflection or feedback activity to prompt awareness and deepen your self-knowledge. These tools help you bring more perspective to yourself and other people.

My latest favourite is one that helps people explore their creative ‘personality’. Designed by the fine folks at Adobe it’s biased towards ‘creative types’ but truthfully applies to everyone, whether we consider ourselves creative or not.

According to the test, my creative type is “An Adventurer”. Reading through the profile results I started to get all sorts of internal resistance. Firstly resistance to being typecast at all, then resistance to the nuances of the profile itself. After browsing the full range of types I saw more of “The Producer” in me. 

This response made me question, and not for the first time, whether I’m answering the questions to reinforce an idealised version of myself rather than my real self. And, whether subconsciously I’m frightened to appreciate myself.


Whilst it’s good to know what ‘type’ of person you are, it’s knowing what you think and feel about the profile results that give you self-knowledge

Go try the mycreativetype assessment and see how this makes you think about yourself and others.This article is based on my musings and research for a booklet I’m writing about self-leadership, self-awareness and self-acceptance and its role in liberating leadership.

So, I’m curious to know what you think is the hardest thing about getting to know yourself or others better?

Please leave a comment and let me know.