Being Honest About Yourself

Describing ourselves should be easy.

Who knows better than we do what we can do, and what we can’t? Our talents? Our tastes?


Two Benefits

We’re often asked to describe ourselves. Doing this in a straightforward and honest way has two benefits:

It helps others. (They know who they are dealing with.)

It is good for us. (It is an exercise in self-knowledge).


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.


To be honest about yourself, you have to know yourself.

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.

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