In a culture where abuse and emotional violence in a relationship are so often normalized and conversations about healing are restricted to therapy and group support sessions, coming out to the world about one’s trauma is a very daring thing to do. And Selena Gomez’s latest song “Lose You To Love Me,” which poignantly details the process of healing and recovery from a toxic relationship, does just that.
Of course, writing about personal pain and heartbreak, and putting it out there for the whole world to listen to and judge, is never easy. But Gomez’s song validates so many of the feelings that women feel when we are trapped with an abusive partner or in a toxic relationship, but rarely get the space to talk about. As she sings,
“This dancing was killing me softly/ I needed to hate you to love me”.
Since the music video premiered, fans on the internet have been speculating that the song may be a veiled attack on Justin Bieber. Gomez had been dating Bieber on-off for almost seven years, ever since she was a teenager until he married Hailey Baldwin last year. And while we’re not 100% sure if Bieber was the one who “tore” her down and “replaced” her “in two months”, it’s obvious that the heartbreaking lyrics come from a deeply personal space.
The lyrics highlight how women are often conditioned to perform emotional labor for men, by putting the needs of the partner before their own, who often take it for granted.
“You promised the world and I fell for it/ I put you first and you adored it
Set fires to my forest/And you let it burn”
And worst of all, we are often indirectly and unwittingly complicit in it, because we somehow end up ignoring all the red flags. According to the CDC, one in every five women has experienced violence by their intimate partner while one among every three women has been physically assaulted in a relationship. To all the women who’ve grown up amidst violence, had their narratives gaslit, and mistaken abuse for love, the song paints an eerily familiar picture:
“I saw the signs and I ignored it/ Rose colored glasses all distorted
Set fire to my purpose/ And I let it burn.”
But the anthem doesn’t end in self-pity. Instead, Gomez sings about healing and reclaiming her identity, by confronting and letting go of the past.
She talks about how she had to “lose you” and “hate you” in order to love herself. She reminds us that sometimes self-love isn’t just about repeating mantras and lighting scented candles, as Instagram can sometimes make it out to be. In fact, it’s rarely aesthetic — it’s a messy journey, involving grappling with dark and unwanted emotions, full of tears and very painful.
But we don’t talk about the dark side of self-love nearly enough. That sometimes, in order to find ourselves, we need to stop making excuses for our abusers and “hate” them for what they’ve done. That our anger is real and justified. That once we’ve been through trauma, learning to love oneself and prioritizing our needs becomes insanely difficult because we have to consciously and carefully un-learn all the toxicity that patriarchy has fed us over the years.
And Gomez’s new song, which is sure to resonate with countless listeners, recognizes this truth.
In the music video (watch above), which was shot in black-and-white on an iPhone, the only star is the singer herself, confidently addressing her listeners. Coupled with superimposed shots of herself, it adds to the personal and confessional tone of the song, and at the same time reminding us that it’s a situation most of us have been in and can relate to.
In a statement, Gomez said,
“This song was inspired by many things that have happened in my life since releasing my last album. I want people to feel hope and to know you will come out the other side stronger and a better version of yourself.”
And that’s an inspiring message that all of us, who’ve been through hell and back, need to hear more often.