see somebody/something for what they are/it is

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see (one) for what (one) (really) is

To recognize one's true identity or nature. It was only after overhearing a conversation she wasn't supposed to witness that Hailey saw Doug for what he really is—a two-faced backstabber. I wish Janet would see me for who I am, and not lump me together will all those other jerks in the office.
See also: see, what

see somebody/something for what they ˈare/it ˈis

realize that somebody/something is not as good, pleasant, etc. as they seem/it seems: I used to really like him, but now I can see him for what he really is — selfish and arrogant!
See also: see, somebody, something, what