Having 126 million Instagram followers does not necessarily make you happy. Just ask Selena Gomez, who opened up about her struggles with mental health and friendship in a powerful new interview with Business of Fashion.
The last two years have been something of a crucible for the pop star. After taking a self-imposed career break to address mental health issues stemming from a lupus diagnosis, she triumphantly returned to the spotlight with a new mission in mind. By speaking out about her own struggles and journey to self-acceptance, Gomez realized that she could help her fans, too.
“I asked teachers, coaches, managers, people that I respected [because of] the way they’ve lived their life. I asked them, ‘How did you get to this place? What were you like when you were 25? What were the things that you were thinking about?’ And from there, being with like-minded people,” Gomez explained about her awakening. “You are who you surround yourself with – 100 percent.”
“If you’re around people who think that stuff is dumb, that think it’s ridiculous – ‘You’re crazy! You’re fine!’ – but you don’t feel that way, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate that,” she continued. “It’s a lonely journey to really figure out where all this stuff is coming from. And to detach from it. It becomes an addiction, it becomes a habit, retraining your mind to not go to these negative places when you say something wrong, do something wrong, when you wear a certain thing or represent a certain culture. But it is lonely, I had to lose a lot of people in my life to get there.”
Gomez has always had a tricky relationship with social media ― making the toxicity of Instagram the focal point of her comeback speech ― because ultimately, she’s only found solace in a few close friends. Far fewer than perhaps you would expect.
“You have to figure out the people that are in your circle. I feel like I know everybody but have no friends,” Gomez jokingly admitted. “I have like three good friends that I can tell everything to, but I know everyone. I go anywhere and I’m like, ‘Hey guys, how’s it going?’ And it feels great to be connected to people, but having boundaries is so important. You have to have those few people that respect you, want the best for you and you want the best for them. It sounds cheesy, but it’s hard.”
Growing up in the industry certainly hasn’t made Gomez more willing to invest in new friendships, given the leering eye of the public. The 25-year-old has spoken before about the pressures she faced as a young Disney star, but she’s still grappling with being sexualized at a young age and issues of privacy.
“I remember just feeling really violated when I was younger, even just being on the beach. I was maybe 15 or 16 and people were taking pictures — photographers. I don’t think anyone really knew who I was. But I felt very violated and I didn’t like it or understand it, and that felt very weird, because I was a young girl and they were grown men,” Gomez explained. “I didn’t like that feeling. Then, I would say the last season of my show, I was probably 18 years old, is when I felt like the flip happened. I didn’t feel like it was about my art as much. I was on the fourth season of the show, and I felt like I was outgrowing it. I wanted something different and obviously I fell in love for the first time. There was all this stuff that was happening and I didn’t know what to do.”
To read Gomez’s full interview, head over to Business of Fashion.