Randi Gloss: How I learned to love myself
I never knew how to love myself—until now.
It’s not something that’s taught to you.
And it’s not something that’s easy to learn either.
Yet it’s beyond critical.
Even today, it’s easier for me to tell you what loving yourself doesn’t look like rather than what it does. I was stuck in a cycle of making decisions that were ultimately unloving, risky and dangerous like:
*Not saying no
*Not taking breaks or slowing down
*Not listening to myself
*Comparing myself to other girls and women
*Wishing I had a certain type of curls, curves (I was skinny as Olive Oyl from the Popeye cartoon when I was younger), or sex appeal
*Giving up too much of my time and energy to other people
*Trying to please people
*Internalizing external negativity
*Avoiding my problems rather than addressing them
*Drinking too much
*Staying in relationships that were emotionally and physically abusive and inconsistent
*Dealing with guys who I knew didn’t actually love me, even if they said they did; also dealing with guys who were dishonest, disrespectful, and disloyal
*Choosing to be a side-chick (I nicknamed this tendency Side-Chick Syndrome)
*Having unprotected sex
*Making compromises that did more harm than good
*Rationalizing or shrugging off decisions that were ultimately damaging
*Choosing what felt “good” or “right” in the moment rather than taking the time to think through things
*Believing I wasn’t good enough or worth loving
It’s hard to do what you don’t know how to do.
I can’t say I really knew what love or a healthy relationship actually looked like. As children, I feel like we’re programmed to think that marriage = love. I later realized that that’s not always the case. My parents got divorced when I was 10. And when my father moved out, he wasn’t always the type of dad to say, “Hey—you look really nice,” when I saw him or, “I love you,” when we’d get off the phone. Sometimes, love looked like a gift, rather than his time and affection.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked in the mirror and told myself, “You’re beautiful,” or simply, “I love you.”
Or the number of minutes I’ve taken to look at my bare body in the mirror and just breathe, taking in all my scars, my rolls, my muscles, my dimples… my body as it is and as it was.
On August 27, 2016, in the early hours of the morning, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test. I was in disbelief, so hours later, around 8am, I stared at another positive one. And in between that time, I called the guy. Like me, he was surprised. We sort of joked about what it’d be like to have a child together and how I wasn’t fully convinced that I was pregnant.
I was—with twins.
But I didn’t know that until August 31, 2016 when I sat in a room at a Planned Parenthood clinic for my scheduled abortion appointment.
Step 1: The ultrasound—You’re told how far along you are and asked if you have any questions. I was seven weeks along and the only question I could think to ask was how far along you had to be in order to know the baby’s gender. 17 weeks, she said.
Step 2: The consultation—You’re asked what type of birth control you’d like to leave with and told the three drugs you can take to help manage pain and anxiety. I chose the patch (I’d tried the pill and IUDs before) and two out of the three drugs (the third was an IV and known to cause nausea).
Then I was asked if I had any more questions.
The nurse hesitated, “I wasn’t sure if I should tell you but it’s a double insemination…”
“You’re pregnant with twins—7 weeks, 1 day and 7 weeks, 3 days.”
Of course. Of course this would happen to me.
Step 3: The procedure—I laid on a table as the doctor and nurse suctioned the embryos out of my womb. It hurt less than when I’d had an IUD put in a few years ago. It was nothing like what I was taught to believe abortions were like growing up—the bloody fetuses being cruelly and mercilessly ripped out of the womb, blood, blood, blood, blood, blood, everywhere. There wasn’t much blood.
I wasn’t the only one there for an abortion that day. There were other women in the recovery room and more women in the waiting room on my out. My friend and I went to Chick-Fil-A on the way back. When I got home, I slept.
I began to figure out how to love myself after my abortion. Part of it included making the decision to stop dealing with the guy for good. Five years off and on and nothing to really show for it. Nothing lasting. Nothing fulfilling. Ultimately, nothing truly loving.
Another part of it included therapy. I needed to be able to grieve, fully and I realized after about a month that needed help doing that. During that time, I didn’t always shower or eat properly (Snickers aren’t breakfast). I spent hours in bed, unable to do much else. Sometimes, I cried myself to sleep. Other times, I couldn’t cry at all. I didn’t really want to be around people either. Some of my friends told me that I was brave. I didn’t see anything brave about taking two lives. I felt selfish. Guilty. Ashamed. Disgusted.
Other times, I felt so fragile. So invisible. So helpless.
Therapy created space for me to empty myself out and find myself again. As cliché as it sounds, I truly had lost sight of who I was. How can you possibly love yourself when you can’t even see yourself?
Part of loving myself also required committing to stopping all of those destructive decisions and habits. I struggled deeply with that. Let’s just say a few of those bullet points up top combined left me nearly looking down the barrel of gun loaded with another abortion if it hadn’t been for the emergency contraceptive they’d given me after my first abortion. Unlike Plan B, this kind worked for up to five days after unprotected sex. Even after that experience, I still struggled. As wild as it may sound, being unloving towards myself was easier than choosing and committing to love myself.
Healing is a process. It requires patience, dedication, discipline, letting go, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance, among other things. At times, it requires isolation. Remaining broken does not serve you. A big part of healing is coming to the realization that you are not your decisions.
I had an abortion but I am not a killer.
I have cheated but I am not a cheater.
I have failed but I am not a failure.
It also includes naming and believing what you are worthy of.
I am worthy of love.
I am worthy of relationships that fill me up rather than break me down.
I am worthy of every blessing I receive.
And you must believe that you are not who you used to be.
I am not who I used to be.
I can honestly say that I love myself more than I ever have before.
When I was pregnant, I was around 196 pounds. Today, I’m still around the same weight. I remember being frustrated that I was stuck at 185 pounds for awhile, then relieved when I made it to 182 but still, that pursuit wasn’t powered by love. I longed for the days when I was 160 pounds. Losing 30 pounds seemed impossible.
I wanted to do this photoshoot in hopes of making peace with my body. I’d gotten caught up with Should Syndrome—you should be this weight or you should look like this by now. That voice wasn’t encouraging, motivating or loving—it was damaging. My therapist taught me that should is a harsh word. It suggests that what you’re doing or how you’re feeling isn’t enough.
I am enough, all by myself.
I am strong even when I feel weak.
I am beautiful, regardless of how much I weigh or what I can fit in to.
My twins taught me how to love myself. I can’t honestly say that I would’ve been able to figure it out without them because there was no real way of stopping the cycle I’d been stuck in. They broke it. Their names came to me in a dream. Joi and Merci, spelled the French way. Joy isn’t based upon your circumstances, your bank account, your followers, or your mood. Joy is the light in a dark room, the laughter amidst tears, the gratitude amidst suffering. Merci means thank you. Rather than lamenting, I am moving into a practice of thanking them for all the lessons they taught me. I am different because of them. I am whole.
Who Am I?
I’m Randi Gloss.
I created GLOSSRAGS when I was 23 and it’s still growing, that was my first baby.
I still cry for Nia & Trayvon & Kalief & MarShawn & Sandra &…
I’m Black and I’m proud.
I’m 27 and a Scorpio.
I love Jesus, He’s coming back.
I love my hometown so much, I got it tatted on my shoulder—I’ma DC shawty, moe!
I love all the types of food they say you shouldn’t if you want to look a certain way.
I’ve worn glasses since I was 8 and cried the day I started to wear them because I thought I was different. I love them now.
I love Build-A-Bear. Shout out to my personal collection: Brown Sugar, the bear. Aaliyah, the rabbit. Rico, the penguin. Angelo, the monkey. Lisa, the rainbow bear, like Lisa Frank, the G.
I love school supplies like kids love the candy store.
I laugh loud and don’t apologize for it.
I love wearing skirts and dresses with sneakers.
I love long walks and talks at night, especially in the summer.
I feel a special connection to water.
I do my eyebrows, if I do them at all, I use mascara because I tried it one day and it worked, and don’t really care that that’s not “the way to do it.”
I’m not afraid to check people for being racist, misogynist or toxic, even when it’s someone I love.
I rather you tell me the truth than be lied to.
I’m shy sometimes.
I’ve dealt with depression since I was 10 and anxiety since I was 23.
I can’t wait to travel more. Love harder. And grow stronger.
Photography by Kierra Johnson