Selena Gomez Says She Has a 'Haunting Feeling' That People Still See Her as 'This Disney Girl'
"That was my job in a way—to be perfect," she said about her time on Disney Channel
Selena Gomez is reflecting on her early rise to the spotlight.
Speaking to Vogue for its April cover story, the star opened up about the effects that starting her career on Disney Channel had on how she thinks people sometimes perceive her.
"I still live with this haunting feeling that people still view me as this Disney girl," the 28-year-old said.
Gomez explained that starting her career early, playing Alex Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place made her feel like she needed "to be perfect."
"That was my job in a way—to be perfect," she said. "You're considered a figure kids look up to, and they take that seriously there."
The singer explained that her experience as a teen on the show pushed her to become "just such a people-pleaser."
"It seems almost impossible not to be, as a performer," she said. "Unless you're like... a man? Yeah."
"I think I spent so many years just trying to say the right thing to people for the sake of keeping myself sane," she added elsewhere.
In the interview, the singer also spoke candidly about her mental health and how she has learned to prioritize her well-being.
Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.
"I knew I couldn't go on unless I learned to listen to my body and mind when I really needed help," she said, referring to going to mental health treatment centers. "Once I stopped, and accepted my vulnerability, and decided to share my story with people—that's when I felt release," she later added.
Part of the healing for Gomez came in part by deleting social media from her phone.
"I woke up one morning and looked at Instagram, like every other person, and I was done," she said. "I was tired of reading horrible things. I was tired of seeing other people's lives. After that decision, it was instant freedom. My life in front of me was my life, and I was present, and I could not have been more happy about it."
Gomez also opened up about her work with uplifting undocumented voices, especially since her paternal grandparents were at one point.
RELATED VIDEO: Selena Gomez on Sharing Her Struggles to Help Others: 'I Want People to Know They're Not Alone'
"It wasn't for any reason that I didn't share it before," she said, sharing that it took them 17 years before they were able to become citizens. "It's just that as I started to see the world for what it is, all these things started to be like light bulbs going off."
"I remember that being such a huge deal," she added about their legal status. "My grandpa was working construction, hiring hundreds of people, and still they were living on the edge, covering up how scary it was."
The singer also shared that a stranger once called her dad "a wetback" while attending a Shania Twain show.
"I started crying," she said. "But my dad grabbed me and just walked away. I cried even more. I thought, I hate that my dad feels so depleted by this."