開き直る (ひらきなおる, hiraki naoru) is one of the standard Japanese words that are difficult to translate into English. Its general meaning is “to admit/accept 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 hiraki-naoru if you admit your mistake while defiantly showing an unrepentant attitude, saying “Yeah that’s my fault, but so what?”. In this case, one of the closest English translations would be “double down” or “be defiant”. In addition, hiraki-naoru can also describe the situation when you admit your weakness in a self-deprecating way. For instance, if someone says, “Because I am a complete failure, I’ll never have a girlfriend”, that’s also hiraki-naoru (i.e. 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 hiraki-naoru in a rather positive way, meaning “to accept that you have no control over the situation and to stop worrying about it”. In this case, the closest (American) English phrase would be “suck it up”. For instance, a winning pitcher in a professional baseball game often says during the post-game interview, “今日はあまり調子が良くなかったので、開き直ってベストを尽くしました。” (Today, my condition was not very good, so I accepted the bad condition and tried to do my best”).
Similar to Case 1, however, hiraki-naoru can have a negative meaning in this case as well, which is “to give in to a difficult situation and show a give-up and indolent attitude”. For instance, if you prepare nothing for your important exam tomorrow, you may hiraki-naoru (i.e. give up everything) and go out for drinking with your friends. This meaning is very similar to that of やけくそ (yakekuso).
(1) Case 1 (negative)
Hey, you ate (my) cake in the fridge!
Yeah, I did. What’s wrong?
Why the heck are you defiantly showing an unrepentant attitude?
(2) Case 1 (negative)
It is not a good idea to show a give-up attitude, saying, “Because I’m already an old man, I can’t get married to anyone”.
(3) Case 2 (positive)
If we are not allowed to go out, let’s accept the bad condition as is and stop worrying about it and think about how to enjoy ourselves at home.