Trigger warning – this piece discusses mental illness.
After its Nov 4 release, we have had the privilege to see Selena Gomez in ways more intimate, heart-wrenching, and honest than ever before. My Mind & Me was six years in the making, and lays bare Selena’s personal life, refusing to shy away from her rawest struggles. Staying true to her opening dialogue, she made a promise to only tell “my darkest secrets”, and we are arguably all the better for it.
Directed by Alek Keshishian, this documentary has already garnered huge praise and success from big names like Rolling Stone, and Wall Street Journal. But perhaps more importantly, this work has been so significantly received by the general public, both by the fans and the unfamiliar alike. In the spirit of this impact, we are here to offer five of the endless heartfelt lessons My Mind & Me has to offer (spoilers ahead).
View this post on Instagram
Everything is not what it seems
Ironically, the Wizards of Waverly Place theme song rings true here. Appearance versus reality is a huge theme in this film. The documentary opens with footage of the final rehearsals for Selena’s 2016 Revival world tour. On stage, her team are blown away by Selena’s performance, with everyone from her best friends to her record label head celebrating – but behind the scenes it’s a different story. Selena tearfully confesses and profusely apologises for her perceived failings. The self-detriment is palpably raw, and unsurprisingly was invisible to the public eye as she performed 55 shows to hundreds of thousands of adoring fans, with all the glamour and finesse of pop stardom, before cancelling the rest of the tour dates on account of her deteriorating mental health.
The documentary structure is crafted deliberately and powerfully to continue telling Selena’s story in this way – juxtaposing public perception with her authentic experiences.
The concept of invisible struggles and facades go beyond the relationship between celebrities and the public, and can be internalised also. Selena’s new single (which shares the documentary title, and accompanied its release), also acknowledges how her battles are a constant fight of something that “eyes can’t see”. Here, Selena painfully confesses that not only are mental health struggles easily masked in the public eye, they can also be incredibly difficult to grasp on a personal level.
The importance of connection
Selena emphasised on countless occasions how grateful she is for her family and close friends. “What made me happy was connection”, she says. In the midst of all of the pressures, career moves and internal storms, she is profoundly honest in understanding how human connection is what fulfils and sustains her.
We see Selena return home to Grand Prairie, Texas many times throughout the film. Drive-thru sweet tea with her cousin, her childhood crushes etched on the closet wall, the neighbours and school friends who still live on the same street. In My Mind & Me, it’s clear that honouring your roots and finding comfort in the simple and familiar are hugely important to her. “Everytime I go home I go to the places I remember”, Selena says. “Because I don’t want to lose that part of me.”
Even in emerging from her most difficult struggles, Selena admirably sought to find a way to bring the light of connection to the darker moments. In acknowledging her battle with Lupus and severe mental health experiences, she understands that now she “can relate to these people” and that “everything happens for a reason”.
Later in the documentary we see Selena interviewing Dr. Vivek Murthy, for World Mental Health Day 2020. The dialogue between the two affirms how whether you find support from friends, whānau, colleagues or strangers, “what really matters is the quality of connections that we have”, and that the journey to connect more deeply is not to transform into someone else, but rather “to return intrinsically to who we are.” Selena responds to Vivek’s wisdom oh so appropriately with “…..mic drop”.
A reminder of the toxicities of fame and celebrity
Throughout the film, it is painfully confronting to observe the inhuman pressures that those in the public eye face when living out their day-to-day lives. Continuous sequences of Selena soldiering through a sea of flashing cameras, violated personal space and incoherent yelling convey the overwhelming pressure and chaos that erupts constantly.
“Justin has a new girlfriend!”, “Justin is engaged!”, “How are you feeling?”, “Are you jealous?”, “Are you depressed?”
The inclusion of paparazzi’s persistent and invasive commentary highlights how celebrity culture normalises asking famed people all kinds of questions which are just downright inappropriate, unempathetic and rude in any other social circumstance.
My Mind & Me continues to drive home the heartache of paparazzi involvement in Selena’s life, when her mother Mandy reveals that she first found out about Selena’s 2018 mental hospitalisation and psychotic break because TMZ had called her to interview her about it.
Selena vulnerably shares her anger and issues regarding her interactions with the media openly, as recently as the 2020 timeline in this film. Even in interviews and during promo, where you might think Selena is given more of an opportunity to voice her own narrative, she still feels “like a product”. “She didn’t even pay attention to what I was saying”. It’s devastating to watch Selena be passed around international studios and sets as a commodity, without being seen for being a human. These moments show how the smaller glimpses into celebrity we are shown through various interviews are represented as fragmented insights, but in reality they accumulate massively into one person’s lived experience, and have a huge potential to harm and demean the person at the centre of it all.
Kiki Rockwell – Madeline
Understanding how to best take care of yourself
During a cosy game of ‘Are We Really Strangers’ with two close friends, Selena and her friends discuss thoughts versus actions, and the ways in which Sel can honour or ignore what fulfils her in life. “You know the things that fuel you and give you purpose in life and the things that make you happy, but I don’t think you always choose that”, her bestie Raquelle says. Though we can understand that it is not easy or possible to choose how we want to live meaningfully all of the time, My Mind & Me offers some gems of advice and methods to practice self-care and foster personal growth.
Selena emphasises that for her, when facing overwhelming or scary realities, knowledge is power: “The more you learn about it, the less you’re going to be afraid of it.” Reminiscing on the books her mother gave her in childhood to help her overcome her fear of thunderstorms, Selena explains how gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges you are facing allows for an empowering demystification. Learning more about her mental and physical illnesses was admittedly crucial in Sel’s ability to overcome the paralysis of fear in order to face her reality head-on, and take action to get better. While some may prefer an ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach to dispelling anxieties, there is definitely something to be said for knowledge revealing an understanding of self and fostering uncomfortably productive growth and healing.
Raquelle also offers some opportunity for reflection for the moments where we relish in our own senses of escapism and relief, while the pair were on a trip to Kenya in early 2020. If the moments where we feel the most full are not feeling attainable in our everyday lives, what can we implement in our regular lives so that we don’t dread the day-to-day? Whether that be feeling anxious to look at your phone like Selena, or whatever else. Although Selena is in a very privileged position when considering her own solutions, all of us can take something from this sentiment to bring more fulfilment and self-care into the everyday.
View this post on Instagram
It’s okay to be everything at once
We often hear ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ – which is true. But it’s also okay to be everything at once, and we are all valid in feeling a little bit of everything at the same time. We are not valid in our struggles and deserving of support only in times when things are ‘worse’ than usual.
Selena’s concluding monologue shows how it’s okay to feel good, bad, empowered all in the same space, even in the same breath. Feelings coexist and can all be valid and true.
“I’m at peace. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m confident. I’m full of doubt. I’m a work in progress. I am enough. I am Selena.”
A huge takeaway from My Mind & Me is the understanding that we all have an ongoing relationship with our mental health, throughout our entire lives. Opening up about her experience with Bipolar disorder, Selena candidly recognises how “it’s (always) going to be there. I’m just making it my friend now.” This documentary offers powerful commentary on acknowledging and walking with yourself and your past, recognising our lows as integral to who we are. Selena is showing us that moments battling severe mental health struggles aren’t something we should be forced to disown in recovery, but something we express self-compassion towards, rather than shame. Something we honour in our journeys, rather than try our best to run the furthest away from.
“I also struggle with my own thoughts and feelings sometimes…but this does not make me faulty. This does not make me weak. This does not make me less than. This makes me human.”
View this post on Instagram
Selena’s Current Work
In addition to her creative projects (both on-screen and in her anticipated return to music), Selena continues her incredible work in the mental health space, creating notable impacts in various spheres in the last year alone.
In February 2022, she co-launched Wondermind, a website focused on providing de-stigmatising mental health education and resources. In May 2022, Selena and the Rare Impact Fund hosted the first ever Youth Action Forum on Mental Health at the White House, to discuss with President Biden the need to create mental health curriculums across all school levels throughout the US. The 2021 Social Impact Report for Selena’s Rare Impact Fund has also recently been released. There is no doubt we will continue to see Selena’s courage and powerful truths be a guiding light for so many.
My Mind & Me is now available to stream on Apple TV+, with Selena offering a two-month free subscription for viewers.
Journey through Selena’s hits and listen to the new accompanying single and beautifully raw track My Mind & Me below.
If you would like to seek support:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
In an emergency, please dial 111.