What We Can All Learn from Selena Gomez's Return to Pop

Like any typical college woman, I grew up with Selena Gomez. From her days on Barney, through her years with Disney, and during her growth as a pop star, Gomez was a part of my pop culture scene during elementary and middle school. But when my high school and college years came around, I lived with little to no Selena because she paused music production during my freshman year of high school. While Selena still continued to claim notoriety as an artist up into 2019, Gomez hasn’t offered any new pop albums since 2015 or performed live since her Revival tour was cut short due to health issues in early 2016. She still has been in music as a featured artist in a few songs between 2015-2019, such as “Taki Taki” and “Wolves,” but other than that, Gomez has been kept from the public eye. But with the release of her two new singles, “Lose You to Love Me” and “Look at Her Now” on October 23rd, Selena seems to be making a comeback. 

And not just any comeback. From what I gather from these singles, her music is going to reflect her personal growth and healing following her difficult relationship with Justin Bieber. As most would know, Selena’s fame was characterized by her relationship with Justin Bieber. Selena and Justin Bieber were together in the early 2010s and were the definition of an off and on again relationship in the later half of the 2010s following their official breakup in 2012. But since Bieber is now legally married to Hailey Baldwin, the Jelena romance is (hopefully) over. 

Selena Gomez’s past music was heavily influenced by her tumultuous romance with Bieber. Gomez’s “The Heart Wants What It Wants” is a perfect example. Released 2 years following Jelena’s split and in the middle of some cryptic messages hinting that Justin and Selena were still seeing each other, THWWIW is an expression of Selena’s struggle with loving Justin. She knows that their relationship isn’t healthy and that there isn’t any romantic “happy ending” to their love, but she also can’t see a life beyond Justin and the few positive emotions they do share together. From my perspective, this song is just an elucidation that Selena felt emotionally trapped by Justin and his behaviors. She just wanted him, or whatever Justin represented, and couldn’t overcome that desire regardless of how difficult their relationship was on her emotional health. Selena’s 2015 album Revival was another indication of how her relationship with Justin was problematic. “Same Old Love” is a song I would theorize is also about Justin. Considering the two had been on/off again for about three years, that would certainly make their love old (for both being in their 20s at least). Selena explains in the song that she’s sick and tired of putting up with the same BS in her relationship with Justin. She also notices that being around him, even when he leaves in peace, she can be shattered. Another song on Revival I suspect is about Justin is “Sober.” The lyrics show Selena’s insecurity that Justin only knows how to love her and treat her correctly when he’s sober. The bridge is especially rough, as Selena says she knows that she should leave the relationship but she won’t because Justin’s love is too good. 

As you can tell from Selena’s past music, Selena’s been attached, trapped, and stuck on Justin due to their off and on relationship for almost 6 years. As I’ve now grown out of my younger and more naive years, listening to these songs no longer connects me to my own past but to Selena’s. Honestly, these songs make me sad for Selena. She was making her pain painfully obvious and yet no one seemed to talk about how toxic her relationship to Justin was. 

But Selena seems to have broken free from the cyclic relationship with Justin and the hurt that came from it. I’m sure his marriage status was helpful in her transition, but given Gomez’s consistent social media cleanses and her kidney transplant recovery, Selena has definitely made a personal commitment to change herself for the better. Her newly released song, “Lose You to Love Me,” shows her transformation best. 

Now, we’ve all heard that you should cut toxic people out of your life to make your life better, but how many of us actually do that? I mean, honestly- who swears they’re done with their romantic partner only to be hooking up with them 2 months later or says they’ll stop talking to their emotionally abusive bestie but be back with them at the pool the next summer? Obviously, actually permanently cutting people out of our lives is extremely difficult. 

Even though Selena took seven years to overcome this struggle, she’s officially cutJustin from her life. She explains how she did this in her new single “Lose You to Love Me,” that she needed to forget Justin to love herself. I think most of us recognize that taking control of who impacts our lives is a healthy form of self-care, but I don’t think many of us consider the fact that keeping toxic people around is a form of self-harm. Selena takes her idea a step further, remarking that she needed to hate Justin to love herself. Now, I’m sure Selena doesn’t hold hate towards Justin in the way we are accustomed, which is full of spite, anger, and animosity. Rather, I think that she meant hate as a total rejection of Justin. She had enough love for herself to fully rid herself of his antics. 

Though I explained how Gomez had remarked that she knew Justin was bad for her in other songs, LYTOLM is a direct and clear depiction of how toxic Justin was. He was someone who burned down what growth she had, who lived on Selena’s adoration but never reciprocated, and enjoyed seeing someone else hurt. Justin’s problematic behavior caused Selena to believe she deserved this pain and slowed her healing time.

I am impressed that Selena is not only able to recognize his toxic behaviors now, but she is able to vocalize these issues in her song. Selena talking about her issues is something we can all learn from. Cutting out a toxic person is not the singular step to stop a toxic person from affecting your life. Of course, the first step to healing is to go cold turkey and remove that person from your emotional space. But the second step is to recognize how severe their problematic behaviors were. This is your way to say, “they did hurt me and I didn’t deserve their hurt.” This is also your time to recognize how their past actions still affect your personal actions today. Taking a personal inventory of how you’ve changed to accomodate someone else is significant to your healing. The third and most important step to heal from a toxic person is to vocalize what happened to you. Like Selena, telling others in your social circle what happened to you is necessary for you to recognize your progress now that the other person is out of your life. 

I ecourage us all to be like Selena. Though we may flip-flop between toxic people for years on end, we can decide to remove that person at any time and begin our healing. Though the path may be difficult as both change and new relationships are scary, the benefits of removing those toxic friends or partners will be greater than the negatives you face in the transition period. I encourage us all to take back our emotional spaces and only allow those who support us to stay within them.

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