The crown is heavy for social media queen Selena Gomez.
"As soon as I became the most followed person on Instagram, I sort of freaked out. It had become so consuming to me. It's what I woke up to and went to sleep to. I was an addict, and it felt like I was seeing things I didn't want to see, like it was putting things in my head that I didn't want to care abou. I always end up feeling like s--t when I look at Instagram," the 24-year-old singer says in Vogue's April issue. "Which is why I'm kind of under the radar, ghosting it a bit."
Gomez deleted the app from her phone and doesn't know the password for her account; her assistant now posts on her behalf. The decision to unplug came after Gomez entered treatment in 2016—which wasn't for addiction, burnout or an eating disorder. "People so badly wanted me to be authentic, and when that happened, finally, it was a huge release. I'm not different from what I put out there. I've been very vulnerable with my fans, and sometimes I say things I shouldn't. But I have to be honest with them. I feel that's a huge part of why I'm where I am."
The "It Ain't Me" singer, who previously spent two weeks at a treatment facility in 2014 for Lupus, decided to seek additional help after canceling her Revival tour last summer. "Tours are a really lonely place for me. My self-esteem was shot. I was depressed, anxious. I started to have panic attacks right before getting onstage, or right after leaving the stage. Basically I felt I wasn't good enough, wasn't capable. I felt I wasn't giving my fans anything, and they could see it—which, I think, was a complete distortion," she says. "I was so used to performing for kids."
"At concerts I used to make the entire crowd raise up their pinkies and make a pinky promise never to allow anybody to make them feel that they weren't good enough. Suddenly I have kids smoking and drinking at my shows, people in their 20s, 30s, and I'm looking into their eyes, and I don't know what to say. I couldn't say, 'Everybody, let's pinky-promise that you're beautiful!' It doesn't work that way, and I know it because I'm dealing with the same s--t they're dealing with," the former Disney Channel star says. "What I wanted to say is that life is so stressful, and I get the desire to just escape it. But I wasn't figuring my own stuff out, so I felt I had no wisdom to share. And so maybe I thought everybody out there was thinking, 'This is a waste of time.'"
Gomez canceled more than 30 concerts to focus on her health. she flew to Tennessee, gave up her cell phone to undergo equine therapy, group therapy and individual therapy. "You have no idea how incredible it felt to just be with six girls, real people who couldn't give two s--ts about who I was, who were fighting for their lives," she says. "It was one of the hardest things I've done, but it was the best thing I've done." She stayed for 90 days, making her first post-rehab appearance at the American Music Awards, where was named Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist.
Going off the grid seems to have helped Gomez. She currently lives in an Airbnb in the Valley and insists she doesn't get out much, except for long drives with her friends. "I think 17 people have my phone number right now," the singer estimates. "Maybe two are famous."
The "We Don't Talk Anymore" singer also reveals she's a fan of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which helps people improve communication, incorporate mindfulness practices and regulate emotions. "DBT has completely changed my life," Gomez tells Vogue. "I wish more people would talk about therapy. We girls, we're taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back, the girl who's down. We also need to feel allowed to fall apart."
Being a girl is often hard—and it's even harder for girls in the public eye. "I worked with Disney for four years," Gomez says. "It's a very controlled machine. They know what they represent, and there was, 100 percent, a way to go about things." As she matured, Gomez made her own rules. "For a guy there's a way to rebel that can work for you. But for a woman, that can backfire. It's hard not to be a cliché, the child star gone wrong. I did respect my fans and what I had, but I was also figuring out what I was passionate about and how far I was willing to go."
Gomez is slowly but surely figuring out where lines need to be drawn—beginning with her love life. When her boyfriend The Weeknd is mentioned, for example, she gets a bit uncomfortable. "Oh, Mylanta! Look, I love what I do, and I'm aware of how lucky I am, but—how can I say this without sounding weird?" she wonders. "I just really can't wait for people to forget about me."
Vogue's April issue is on newsstands April March 28.