How do you see yourself?

I met a U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant at a cookout over the 2013 Mother’s Day weekend. The Staff Sergeant is on active duty and has been a U.S. Marine for 14 years. His resume is long, and his recounts of experiences were compelling. According to him, he’s poised to advance to Gunnery Sergeant during his next board. He is in military language: squared away. Once I informed him of my rank, he wouldn’t stop identifying me as Sir. I pleaded, “Dude, we are at a cookout, relax.”

“No Sir.”

“Look, I appreciate the respect, but we’re out of uniform. It’s all good fam, lay off the Sir.”

“No Sir. I’m a Marine, I know you’re an Officer, I will show you the respect, and courtesy that’s required, Sir.”

“Roger that.”

As we enjoyed drinks, slang replaced proper English, but Sir never departed the conversation.

The impression he left on me was: Semper Fi.

Our conversation ignited when he informed me that he was a hood n — -a. I informed that I understood, we all start somewhere, and it’s great to see that he has evolved into a respectable example; and to consider dropping n — -a from his vocabulary. He shot back, defending his proclamation. He went on to make it clear that he handles his business and has been quite a successful Marine. A good portion of our conversation was dedicated to me sharing my view on why he is the exact opposite of what he expressed, while he shared his perspective on why he sees himself as such.

I believe his view is self-defeating and counter-productive regardless of the success he achieves. We discussed this at length, had a bunch of laughs, and some profound moments that were nothing to laugh at. I see him as an enigma that may be simply stuck on terminology associated with — — in my opinion — — a destructive portion of American culture.

If you see yourself as beautiful, it will show. You may not be attractive to everyone, but ugly, out of the question. If you see yourself as worthy of being heard, you do your best to speak with confidence and clarity in all circles, not just those you are comfortable with. If you see yourself as a thug, you are likely to exhibit characteristics associated with a thug. If you see yourself as an upstanding man or woman, you are likely to carry yourself as such. “Juice,” a favorite movie of mine, puts it in entertaining context (explicit language to follow).

Bishop (2PAC), stated to Q (Omar Epps) at the high school locker, “…I am crazy. But you know what else? I don’t give a fuck. I don’t give a fuck about you. I don’t give a fuck about Steel. I don’t give a fuck about Raheem (my favorite character), either. I don’t give a fuck about myself. Look, I ain’t shit. I ain’t never gonna be shit and you less of a man than me, so as soon as I decide that you ain’t goin be shit, pow! So be it. You remember that, motherfucker. Cause I’m the one you need to be worried about. Partner!”

A classic scene, and it’s worth thinking about why Bishop didn’t see his worth. Bishop was a fictional character whose ending was written, but what about the individuals living that life who share that feeling. More importantly, it’s worth thinking about how you see yourself and its effect on your life. What I believe and my experience has shown me to be true is: what we think about ourselves matters significantly.

How do you see yourself?

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