Describing ourselves should be easy.
Who knows better than we do what we can do, and what we can’t? Our talents? Our tastes?
We’re often asked to describe ourselves. Doing this in a straightforward and honest way has two benefits:
Two Ways to Go Wrong
According to Aristotle, there are at least two ways to go wrong when you’re describing yourself to someone else. You brag too much or boast too little. The ideal is to get it just right.
A braggart claims to be more than they are, or over exaggerates their good qualities. A self-deprecating person plays down their good points to a degree that may seem insincere.
Like other Aristotelian virtues, getting it right requires good judgment. It’s not an exact science, but it’s not purely subjective either. Being honest about yourself in a way that feels good to you and other people is an art. When you get it right, everyone is comfortable.
Being honest about oneself is a special kind of honesty. Doing the work you say you’ll do, or showing up on time is also about honesty. But it is a different kind of honesty. Being honest about yourself requires more than having the intention of telling the truth. It requires self-understanding.
Even though we are aiming for a midpoint when it comes to self-honesty, Aristotle believed that an honest person, “inclines more towards understatement than overstatement…exaggeration being a tiresome thing.”
Aristotle discusses this virtue in Book IV, Chapter 7, of Nicomachean Ethics. NE is a book Aristotle wrote for his son, Nicomachus, with the goal of helping him live a good and happy life.