開き直る (ひらきなおる, hiraki naoru) is one of the standard Japanese words that are difficult to translate in English. Its general meaning is ‘to admit something negative and start to show a bold attitude’. Basically, it is used in one of the following two cases.
Case 1: Show an Unrepentant and Shameless Attitude
You will be criticised for doing 開き直る (hirakinaoru) if you admit your mistakes while defiantly showing an unrepentant attitude, saying ‘Yeah that’s my fault, but so what?’. You may also do 開き直る when you admit your weakness in a self-deprecating way. For instance, if you say, ‘Because I innately suck at communication, I’d never have a girlfriend whatever I do.’, you are doing 開き直る (to admit your weakness and show an unrepentant, indolent and give-up attitude).
Case 2: To Accept that You have No Control Over a Bad Situation
When you are facing a challenging situation, you can do 開き直る in a rather positive way, meaning ‘to accept that you have no control over the situation and to stop worrying about it’. For instance, winning pitchers in a baseball match often say during a post-game interview, ‘Today, my condition was not very good, so I ‘開き直って’ (accepted the bad condition and stopped worrying about it) and tried to do my best’. Another example is when you are feeling too daunted to ask a question in front of many people but you’ve finally managed to push yourself, with 開き直る (showing a bold attitude without worrying about whether or not your question might sound stupid). On the other hand, as in the case 1, you may 開き直る negatively when you are in a fix, meaning ‘to give in to your difficulties and show a shameless and indolent attitude’ . For instance, if you have done nothing to prepare for the exam in the next day, you may 開き直る (give in to the challenging situation and show a shameless attitude) and go out for drinking with your friends.
(1) Case 1-1
Hey, you ate (my) cake in the fridge!
Yeah, I did. What’s wrong?
Why the heck are you 開き直っている (defiantly showing an unrepentant attitude)?
(1) Case 1-2
It is not a good idea to 開き直る (show a give-up attitude) saying, ‘ Because I’m already an old bloke, I can’t get married with anyone’.
(2) Case 2
If we are not allowed to go out, let’s 開き直る (accept the bad condition as is and stop worrying about it) and think about how to enjoy ourselves at home.
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Synonyms: 逆ギレ and 背水の陣
‘逆ギレ’ and ‘背水の陣’ are related words to 開き直る in Case 1 and 2, respectively.