Kelly Clarkson hasn’t always exuded confidence.
While the singer says in the current issue of PEOPLE that she’s “never felt the need to be a certain weight,” she has previously admitted she was bulimic for a short time in her early teens because she felt she’d get better parts in her school musicals if she was thinner.
And she recently told Attitude magazine, “When I was really skinny, I wanted to kill myself. I was miserable, like, inside and out, for four years of my life. But no one cared, because aesthetically you make sense.”
(The “Love So Soft” singer has since clarified those latter comments had more to do with having to smile through the “arranged marriage” of her first post-Idol record deal and the stresses of her career rather than her weight.)
But Clarkson — who recently celebrated her new album Meaning of Life at the iHeartRadio Album Release Party with Kelly Clarkson at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles — says starting a family with husband Brandon Blackstock, 40, in 2013 was a really grounding experience for her.
“My level of self-empowerment grew to another level,” she says of becoming stepmom to her husband’s two kids from a previous marriage (Savannah, 16, and Seth, 10,) and welcoming daughter River Rose, 3, and son Remington Alexander, 18 months.
“I feel sexy and far more intelligent and wiser when making decisions — not just for myself, but for my children.”
Clarkson hopes to pass on her confidence to her children as they grow older.
“I just say, ‘You see all this stuff that gets said about me all the time? Just brush it off. Just worry about your own path, your own front porch, and everyone else can worry about theirs,’ ” she explains.
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“It’s a shame that you have to teach that,” she explains, “but it’s an important lesson to learn: to let go of the things you can’t control.”
Meaning of Life is available now.
For more about Kelly Clarkson’s new album and life at home with her family of six, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.