Reese Witherspoon says she's a 'terrible' driver and her daughter might be 'bad' at basketball — and experts say brutal honesty can be critical to success

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesReese Witherspoon.
  • Reese Witherspoon says she’s brutally honest with her kids about what they’re bad at.
  • She once told her now 19-year-old daughter she might be bad at basketball.
  • Witherspoon’s husband appears to be equally honest with her about her weaknesses.
  • Experts say being honest with others – and with yourself – can pay off.

A recent feature in Fast Company, titled “A day in the life of Reese Witherspoon,” offers some insight not only into the actress and entrepreneur’s daily routine, but also into her feelings on “brutal honesty.”

Here’s Witherspoon, as told to Mary Kaye Schilling: “I feel like I’m constantly counteracting pressure from the parents who want to make the lives of their kids golden and magical at all moments! Guess what, kids? You’re going to be disappointed and uncomfortable once in a while.”

Witherspoon shares a personal example of how she took the faux gold and magic out of parenting:

“I remember Ava [her daughter, now 19 years old] crying in bed in third grade – she was on JV basketball and she was the only kid on the team who didn’t score. I said, ‘Aves, maybe you’re bad at basketball.’ She thought that was mean. I said, ‘Mean or true? ‘Cause, guess what? Your mum’s bad at basketball, too.'”

Brutal honesty seems to be the MO in Witherspoon’s marriage as well. Witherspoon told Fast Company: “I quit driving a year ago. My husband [Jim Toth] said, ‘Babe, you’re a terrible driver. Get someone to do that for you.’ And it’s great because that’s the time I now spend catching up on phone calls or texts.”

Read more:

I asked 4 pairs of relationship experts married to each other how they keep from fighting, and everyone had the same tip

Witherspoon isn’t the only parent who’s talked up the benefits of being candid with their kids. On Parenting.com, Janelle Hanchett, author of “I’m Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering,” writes that she told her daughter (coincidentally, also named Ava) she wasn’t good at sports.

Hanchett remembers explaining to Ava, “You’re in 5th grade and read Charles Dickens. That ain’t normal. But you’ve done it without even trying. … But all of us also have things that we are NOT naturally good at. If we want to get good at those things, we absolutely can, but we have to put in twice the effort of the people around us to get to the decent point and even harder if we want to excel.”

Apparently, Ava got the drift.

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses

Even if you’re not brutally honest with others about their shortcomings, being honest with yourself is important. In another Fast Company article, Mike Templeman, founder of Foxtail Marketing, writes that “you shouldn’t be bogged down by your weaknesses that have no bearing on you becoming a huge success.”

By contrast, if there are weaknesses that will affect your ability to become successful, work on them! To borrow from Templeman’s example, if you’re a charismatic person with great ideas, you might want to pursue public speaking. And if you’ve got a habit of using filler words, that’s something you should probably fix.

Sometimes, being aware of your weaknesses can help you capitalise on them, instead of ignore them. (I’ll refer you to the idea of the fixed versus growth mindset.)

In his book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree,” Eric Barker wrote that some of the world’s most successful people have achieved fame and glory because of – not in spite of – their eccentricities. For example, Michael Phelps has an unusual body type, which makes him an outstanding swimmer, but probably not a great runner.

As Hanchett writes on Parenting.com, it’s important to let your kids know they aren’t the best at everything. “Wouldn’t she [Hanchett’s daughter] also think the world should be working for her? There’s a word for that. It’s called ‘entitled.'”

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