Selena Gomez — honored as one of three People of the Year — opens up about learning to embrace her kidney transplant scars

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Selena Gomez is the first to acknowledge living with chronic illness can take its toll physically and emotionally.

Two years after revealing she had been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus, the Rare Beauty founder, 28, underwent a kidney transplant in 2017 due to complications stemming from the disease.

In March of that year, the pop superstar kickstarted the Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research with a donation to the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.

Since then, she's continued to be an outspoken advocate for those suffering from lupus, and in PEOPLE's latest cover story Gomez opens up about learning to embrace her transplant scars.

12/14/2020 cover
Selena Gomez

Watch the full episode of People of the Year: Selena Gomez streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

"At the beginning of my recovery, I was a little bit sad. You're already going through something, and then there's the added pressure of 'I don't look the same. I don't know if I feel comfortable in my body,'" says Gomez, who is honored as one of three People of the Year in the issue.

"But I'm also around some of the best people, who see beyond the things we sometimes get wrapped up in. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that scar, and now I look at it in a much different way," she continues. "I feel like I'm more of a warrior."

Back in September, the entertainer put her transplant scar on display in a moving Instagram post where she opened up about her newfound confidence.

Selena Gomez surgery scars
Selena Gomez
| Credit: Selena Gomez/Instagram

“When I got my kidney transplant, I remember it being very difficult at first showing my scar. I didn’t want it to be in photos, so I wore things that would cover it up,” she wrote in the caption. “Now, more than ever, I feel confident in who I am and what I went through...and I’m proud of that. T - Congratulations on what you’re doing for women, launching @lamariette whose message is just that...all bodies are beautiful.”

Now Gomez — whose makeup company has committed to raising $100 million in the next 10 years to provide mental health resources to underserved communities — hopes to spread the crucial message of self-love and acceptance to others who may be struggling.

Says the star: "What makes everything I go through worth it is knowing that hopefully a young girl [going through the same thing] doesn't feel as scared."

George Clooney, Regina King, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Selena Gomez are PEOPLE's People of the Year! Look for all four covers on newsstands this week and read their revealing interviews in the new issue.