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An event or outcome that forces one to accept or reevaluate the reality of one's position or situation. I think the government's latest round of legislation is a reality check to those still holding onto the belief that they had lower-class citizens' best interests in mind. The loss against Scotland is bound to be a reality check for England that they need to rethink their strategy on the field.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
An assessment to determine if one's circumstances or expectations conform to reality, as in Time for a reality check-wasn't this supposed to be a money-making enterprise? [Slang; second half of 1900s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a reality check
COMMON A reality check is something that forces you to accept the truth of a situation. This defeat is a reality check after two victories against reasonably good opposition. Today's poll is a reality check for those who believe that the government faces certain defeat.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012