“I’ve found the strength in it,” she said. “It’s dangerous to stay in a victim mentality. And I’m not being disrespectful, I do feel I was a victim to certain abuse.”
When asked if she meant “emotional abuse,” Gomez responded, “Yes,” — adding, “I had to find a way to understand it as an adult. And I had to understand the choices I was making. As much as I definitely don’t want to spend the rest of my life talking about this, I am really proud that I can say I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt and I’ve found a way to just walk through it with as much grace as possible.”
The Rare artist went on to explain that her No. 1 single, “Lose You to Love Me,” helped her cope with that pain.
“I’m very proud of it,” she said of the tune. “It has a different meaning to me now from when I wrote it. I felt I didn’t get a respectful closure, and I had accepted that, but I know I needed some way to just say a few things that I wish I had said.”
“It’s not a hateful song; it’s a song that is saying — I had something beautiful and I would never deny that it wasn’t that,” Gomez added. “It was very difficult and I’m happy it’s over. And I felt like this was a great way to just say, you know, it’s done, and I understand that, and I respect that, and now here I am stepping into a whole other chapter.”
A rep for Bieber did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The former pair were first linked in 2011 before ending their on-and-off romance nearly seven years later. Months after calling it quits, Bieber proposed to now-wife Hailey Baldwin. The two wed twice, first in a private ceremony in September 2018 and again in a bigger celebration in September 2019.
Despite the timing and Gomez’s transparency about her past relationship with Bieber, 25, the singer and Baldwin, 23, have remained on good terms.
Back in October, after the release of “Lose You to Love Me,” Gomez asked her fans to “be kind” in a message many believed was inspired by Bieber’s wife.
“I am grateful for the response that the song is getting. I’m so grateful. However, I do not stand for women tearing women down,” Gomez said in an Instagram Live. “I will never, ever be by that, so please be kind to everyone. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, if you’re my fans don’t be rude to anybody, please. Don’t go off and say things that you just feel in the moment.”
At the time, Baldwin received hate after posting a screenshot of Summer Walker’s song “I’ll Kill You” to her Instagram Story. Some of Gomez’s supporters assumed the post was in response to the Disney Channel alum’s vulnerable ballad.
“Please, for me, know that that’s not my heart,” Gomez added. “My heart is only to release things that I feel — that are me, and that I’m proud of.”
“Please stop with this nonsense… there is no ‘response,‘” Baldwin wrote, according to a screenshot obtained by Just Jared at the time. “This is complete BS.”
Later in her NPR interview, Gomez talked about another song on her new album: “Vulnerable” — which she said is an anthem of strength in the face of negativity.
“As I grew up in this chaotic space, I did have to learn how to be tough, and to be strong, but I’m not this hard person,” Gomez said. “And I have every right to be: From 7-years-old to 27, I’ve been working, and I’ve had the most horrible things said to me, said about me, and being exposed to way too much.”
“One of my issues is that I always felt like I was this weak person because I would cry, or I would get emotional, or I hated when people were rude. I just started getting to the place, definitely a few years ago, where I understood that vulnerability is actually such a strength,” she added.
Her openness about her ups and downs — along with her health struggles and her battle with depression, which she also opens up about on the record — is something Gomez says she was drawn to in order to take control of her life and address the ongoing rumors.
“The reason why I’ve become so vocal about the trials and tribulations of my life is because people were already going to narrate that for me,” she explained. “I wasn’t going to have a choice because of how fast everything moves now. Most of the time, yes, it’s not true, or it’s an embellished version of what the truth is. I want to be able to tell my story the way that I want to tell it.”
“All of these things happened, and I wasn’t going to deny that, I wasn’t going to pretend to put a smile on when it actually was awful — a few of the worst moments of my life,” Gomez said. “I don’t know if I would have made it. And that’s medical reasons, obviously, and emotional reasons. I just had to find a way to claim my story.”
Rare is out now.