Be Brutally Honest With Yourself

Brutally HonestHonesty is the best policy, they say. What’s even better is being brutally honest. As humans, we have a tendency to think of ourselves to be better than we actually are. If you take a poll with a large sample size to judge a skill they have, the majority of them will say that they are better than average. Whether they say that because they actually are or because they think they are are two different things. This is called the overconfidence bias. 

Why do I say to be brutally honest? If you distort reality, your view of yourself could be higher than it actually is. During your journey it could seem like you’re doing just fine but at the weigh-in or reviewing of your goals, you would come up short. That’s time that could be spent doing more during your goal chasing years that is now gone forever. The key is to be in-line with reality so that overconfidence doesn’t become an achilles heel.

First, I want to clarify brutal honesty. Brutal honesty does not mean cruel or malicious honesty. It means that you state the truth without being condescending with yourself or others. Being condescending means that you’re adding feeling of superiority or un-confidence to the honesty. That isn’t healthy or beneficial.

Being Brutally Honest Helps You

I have a lot of overconfidence bias, myself. I think that I’m better than I actually am at a lot of things, even if I am just starting out. For example, I thought I could be a guru investor. Turns out, I wasn’t. I thought I would be able to work for any company I wanted to after college. I didn’t. There were and are so many instances where I felt overconfident. When I failed, it hit me harder than if I was brutally honest with myself. Whether it’s overconfidence that does the trick or over-optimism, I knew that looking at the world in real terms was better than looking at it in fake terms. 

With all of those failures, I learned something, brushed it off, and moved forward. But after being knocked down and have the impact feel harder than it actually is, I wanted to change. When I thought about it, the root cause of the overconfidence bias, for me, was my feelings. I felt that I could do better than the average with no experience. I felt that I was invincible with the credentials of a college education and multiple internships under my belt. However, this is the wrong way of thinking. I had to let go of my pride and feelings of superiority.

I started leaving my feelings of pride out of decisions that I made. Now, I have expectations when I put myself up for success or failure of what I wanted to achieve, but I don’t stay hopeful. Reality began to sink in more and I was able to achieve more as a result because I wasn’t disconnected with the facts. It allows me to put in the hours without any distractions.

Advantages to Being Brutally Honest

Being disconnected to the facts and the real world can’t be good over the long term. When one makes a mistake but thinks that it was a good result when it was mediocre has inherent problems in an of itself. For example, spending $500 a week going out and saying “I thought it would come out to be $1000, I did great!” If that snowballs into more weeks, what’s left is some time to work its magic to lead to the inevitable trouble.

Some of the advantages to being a brutally honest person include:

More Trust

People are going to start trusting your advice and words. If you give a compliment or a critique, they know that you don’t have a second motive in mind. The compliment will come across as genuine and not flattering and critique will come across as feedback, not criticism. Being in line with reality will give you credibility and people won’t question your words as much.

Actually Achieve Goals

You will start achieving goals that you set out for yourself. I thought I would make millions from trading stocks in just 5 years. When I first started out investing, I lost a lot of money. It’s easy to say that I did not achieve my goal of making millions in just 5 years. Now, I learned from my mistakes and I take measures to ensure that I’m being brutally honest with myself, not just with investing but other goals as well.

I frequently check my goals to give myself a reality check into making progress. If I’m not progressing, I tell myself bluntly “I’m not achieving my goals and it’s because of me” and look for the why. Once I figure out the why, I change and adjust my behavior so that I can make progress. 

Happier Life

When you start thinking that you are the best at what you do when just starting out, the fact that there’s someone out there better than you might hit you harder than when you didn’t think that way. It can lead to you giving up or becoming resentful of that person. Your confidence might be shaken also because you’ve put this immense high standard for yourself. That isn’t good.

How to Become Brutally Honest

Look at what others are doing and compare yourself to them. Compare in an objective and responsible manner. Don’t compare yourself to the point where it will get you down that you’re not in their same level. Compare to let it act as a motivator. Let go of pride. Compare objectively and responsibly (don’t compare to the point where it will get you down), use it as a motivator,  Most of the time, we look for ways to blame the external environment, usually not internal. That’s when perception can be different from what it actually is.

Let go of your pride. Pride is the enemy of success. I used to see myself as this person who’s better than everybody. I had 2 majors, 3 minors, and a 40k bank account all at the age of 21, for crying out loud! However, when I hear stories of children making a six figure salary, it brings me back to earth. I am not better than someone, I got rid of the feeling of superiority I had over another person. There are so many people who’ve achieved more by my age than I could ever imagine. 


Your bank account could become a lot better if you are brutally honest with yourself and therefore look for ways to change your behavior to achieve your goals. It allows you to take a good hard look at yourself and look for ways to improve. Distorting reality isn’t good to make yourself be better financially.

I wanted to become a millionaire by the time I turn 31.5. I don’t think I’ll even make an average of 100k a year for the next 10 years. Becoming a millionaire in 10 years is not attainable if I can’t even gross an income of a million. I changed this goal to be achieved at a later time in my life. 

Readers, do you agree with being brutally honest? Do you have an over-confidence or over-optimism bias? Please share in the comments below!

Finance Solver

I grew my net worth to $40,000 as a college student through hard work, discipline, and a little bit of luck. I graduated college in 2016 and will be starting to plan for my retirement once I start working.I am planning on reaching financial independence by my early 30's and I will document my moments of inspiration all the way to desperation here.

My goal is to enable your success in personal finance so that you can realize the American dream. The first step is starting today!

Read more about me here.

Latest posts by Finance Solver (see all)

18 thoughts on “Be Brutally Honest With Yourself

  1. This is a really interesting idea, and I can see that a lot of people out there have a bias for themselves, I think I often struggle with the other side of things – even with a solid plan and realistic steps to achieve something I am often doubtful. I’d say I’m a realist who leans towards pessimism most of the time. Optimistic people probably fall into this trap the most, Tristan is always an optimist at heart but I’ve definitely seen some more “realism” being injected into his way of thinking overtime, I also think he has helped me build confidence and a bit of optimism in certain areas.

    Fun fact – I was talking about the movie World War Z with someone, I said I could barely watch it because it was so scary, that when I watch stuff like that I imagine if I was in that zombie world, I probably wouldn’t make it. They said that they never find those types of movies scary because they imagine themselves as the main character (It’s pretty obvious that the main character would have died 50 times over if the movie wasn’t centered around them) That is some epic confidence bias right there.


    • Finance Solver says:

      Looking at things with objective lenses, even pessimistic ones can be great though! I’ve seen an ASAPScience video where pessimistic people live longer because they don’t take as many risks such as alcohol, excessive risk in the stock market, etc. Their health is better overall throughout their life than an optimistic person so it can definitely act as an advantage! I sometimes have a bit of a confidence problem as well, but that’s only when it’s dealing with other people (public speaking, etc). When no one’s judging / watching if I fail, etc then I become so overconfident to the point where it’s not good. My results put me in reality check at times but man does that hit hard.

      Whoa, I don’t think I would be alive in the fictitious world either. I would be one of the background actors who gets taken out in the first minutes of the movie. There’s so many characters in the movie yet only a few gets to be the main character and survive. They don’t like to play the statistic game, it seems!

      • I loved your reply to my comment – really made me feel a better about my pessimistic tendencies. I feel pretty self conscious about being seen as pessimistic, but those are some good reasons to embrace it.

        Yep, definitely would be one of the background actors here too lol.


        • Finance Solver says:

          Glad you liked it! I’m also self conscious about some things but I’ve realized that I’m self conscious because I’m putting myself for everyone else to judge. After realizing this, I recognized that I’m putting the blame on myself for being self conscious, instead of others who were the ones judging me.

          I’m slowly being less self conscious but it sure doesn’t happen overnight.

  2. 40K at age 21? That’s pretty awesome if you ask me. I was flat broke at 21 and still in college.

    Here is what I will tell you, don’t compare yourself to others as their circumstances maybe very different then yours. Set realistic and achievable goals and then measure your success against those goals. Your success and failures should be relative to your own goals and not what someone else is doing or able to achieve.

    Also, I have never set a goal based on purely money. Goals should be something meaningful that you want to accomplish in life and money would be a byproduct. It has worked for me and made me feel more accomplished than if I had just set the goal based on how much money I would want at a certain age.

    There are lessons to be learned in life and as we get older we get wiser because of what we learn from our mistakes and setbacks. So, don’t try to rush through life, let it show you all the peaks and the valleys.

    • Finance Solver says:

      Thank you! It look a long time and it was brutal but I’m glad to have gone through with the experience. I feel like my work ethic multiplied by a factor of 10 by going through that and I get less stressed, etc.

      I like comparing myself to benchmark myself and see where I stand. When I worked for executives of a company, they watch their competitors earnings LIKE A HAWK and see where they could improve themselves if their competitors blew their numbers out of the water. I never compare myself to others and feel bad about it because I understand that we are in different circumstances but I need to see areas where I can improve, which is why I like the comparative approach. I use it to act as a motivator.

      I agree, my goal is to give back to my parents financially because they have sacrificed so much for me to live and thrive. I don’t want that to vanish in vain, which is why I work so hard. I want to achieve financial independence so that money never becomes the reason for our stress ever again.

      I don’t try to rush through life, but I do try to go through it faster than average. I didn’t set out to graduate early, I actually involuntarily skipped a grade in elementary, which turned out to be a good thing. I’m excited to see where I’ll be 10 years from today!

    • Finance Solver says:

      Thanks Kandja! It definitely took me a long time before I was brutally honest with myself. I regarded myself so highly and saw myself as invincible. This is a discriminating behavior though because I was treating myself differently than how I was treating others. Don’t want to get back to that state again!

  3. I do believe in self-honesty. Until you see yourself as you really are, it’s difficult to make good decisions.

    But in addition to overconfidence being a problem, underconfidence can be a problem as well. I suffered from this early in my career. I attribute underconfidence to being thrown into situations at work that I was not experienced enough to handle. In my first job out of business school, with less than a year of experience, I was running multi-million dollar consulting engagements. My boss was distracted with other responsibilities so I was forced into the role. It leaves you constantly wondering if you’re making the right moves.

    Eventually, you come to realize that you actually do know what you’re doing, but it took a while to get there.

    As you say, brutal honesty is the way to go.

    • Finance Solver says:

      Great point. What’s best to see is reality and not to go too far off one way or another. I feel the under-confidence right now because the program I’m in currently almost forces me to say what I want to do. I have a hard time stating what I want because I’m afraid it will be taken the wrong way but they aren’t mind readers so I have to be the one to adjust.

      Whoa that is the very definition of someone throwing you in the fire. I don’t know how I would handle that kind of situation because I like structured work where I build today what I learned yesterday. That almost forces you to be a business owner but at least you’ve been able to go through that experience and now you can say that you’ve seen everything!

  4. Being honest with yourself is important, but difficult to pull off. You’re right on the goals, for sure! If you have goals set, it becomes easier to be objective and honest with yourself.

    I think using others as inspiration is a great motivator, but comparing too much to others can become self-defeating. Sometimes a good way to measure success is to set a goal of being better next month, or next year, than you are today. It can be hard to measure, but it’s good to continually strive for improvement.

    • Finance Solver says:

      It’s so difficult to pull off because we don’t really get a lot of feedback from others what they think about us. I have to ask for the feedback but sometimes I don’t even know which feedback to ask for. Have to figure things out by yourself at the very least.

      I agree, absolute goals can be better than relative goals, no doubt about it! I like to compare to see how I’m doing vs the rest of the group but never try to add feelings of resentment, jealousy or slumping into it. Sometimes it’s hard!

    • Finance Solver says:

      Great goal setting! I need to start doing that little more, I just go by with what I want to accomplish and sometimes it’s measurable and sometimes it’s not. Can’t review something that isn’t measured, as GenYFinanceGuy says.

  5. I think most people don’t realize they can be brutally honest and just go on doing what they are doing. If they only realized that saving and investing a little. Cutting back on a little of this and that they could change their financial outlook

    • Finance Solver says:

      So true! Sometimes it’s hard to look at a mirror and say that a change needs to be made. It’s hard to even know if there needs to be a change that’s why I think looking at others to see how you’re doing can be good. Depends on who you look at too!

  6. I wrote about this in the past, but from a different approach. I mainly focus on goals, and I like your example of being a millionaire by 31. I’m all about bridging goals, similar to how we bridge things in our financial forecasts in corporate finance. Anyone can write a goal, but how do you expect to reach it? What are the high level steps you will take? What are the sub-steps? How realistic is it that the goal will be achieved? Put it in percentages. What are the risks and opportunities? It’s okay to be optimistic, but you also need to be realistic.

    • Finance Solver says:

      Yes! I’ve been learning recently that it’s important to look over your goals and check to make sure you are achieving your overall goals. In college, one of my biggest regrets was not checking over my goals to make sure that the goal that I was working so hard towards was something that I actually wanted.

      Also, I didn’t measure whether what I was doing was successful or not. I was going a 100 miles per hour but I didn’t know the direction of where I was going. I learned from that though and have goal checks periodically!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *