At the age of 19, Demi Lovato already has more than a decade of experience as a professional actor and singer in her repertoire. But her ambition and talent stretches back to a kindergarten talent show, where she says the spark was lit as she sang “My Heart Will Go On.” By age eight, she was a part of the cast of the preschool sensation “Barney & Friends” with best friend Selena Gomez. As a teen, her successes piled up – a spot as the lead in the Disney Channel show “Sonny with a Chance”, a starring role in the “Camp Rock” movies, a top spot in “The Princess Protection Program”, and two solo albums. She made guest appearances on shows like “America’s Next Top Model” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and spoke out against bullying on CNN. She dated Joe Jonas, and teamed up with him, Gomez, and Miley Cyrus for an environmental charity campaign. The Demi that looked shiny under the spotlight was really worn and broken underneath.
In this month’s Seventeen, Lovato reveals that the pressure to be perfect in all that success was so damaging it led her to complete exhaustion, rage, and finally a stint in rehab to cope with eating disorder and emotional issues. But instead of dwelling on the missteps of one more Hollywood teen who falls apart as she reaches fame, Lovato’s chosen to partner with the magazine and The Jed Foundation to spread the message to other teens that “Love Is Louder Than the Pressure to Be Perfect.” Yahoo! joined in, surveying teens and young adults to find out if they also feel that pressure and how they deal with it. Here’s what our survey of 671 Americans aged 13 – 21 revealed and what Lovato candidly shared with Seventeen.
On the drive that sent her spinning: “I didn’t want anyone to be able to say that there was someone else working harder than I was.” Among the female respondents to the Yahoo! survey, 74% said the pressure to be perfect came from within while 56% said the demand came from their parents.
On depression and rehab: Lovato says she suffered with depression throughout her child, telling herself she wasn’t worthy. Eventually, this boiled over and she lost control, punching a backup dancer. “I basically had a nervous breakdown. I was really bad off. My parents and my manager pulled me aside and said, ‘You need to get some help.’ It was an intervention. I wanted freedom from the inner demons. I wanted to start my life over.” One in three teens and young adults surveyed said they have suffered from a psychological condition, the two most prevalent being depression and anxiety.
On being afraid to get help for eating disorders, emotional distress, and a history of cutting herself: “There were times when I thought, I don’t know if I actually want help because my eating disorders are my best friend. Looking back on it, I just want to cradle my old self up and hold her and tell her that it doesn’t have to be this way.” Of the survey participants, 60% of young women and girls admitted to having an unhealthy relationship with food and 41% said they constantly diet or think about their weight. About 15% said they hurt themselves physically. [If you or someone you love is cutting or otherwise self-injuring, SAFE has a great, supportive site with resources and a hotline at 1-800-DONT-CUT.]
On how Selena Gomez helped her through: Lovato admits her friendship with Gomez was not in a good place last year. The two put that aside, however, and her best friend was a support during her treatment. “We didn’t really discuss what I was going through—we just talked.” While 73% of the participants we surveyed said they listen to music to cope when they feel pressured to perfect, half said they prefer to spend time alone. The third highest response, being with friends, tallied 46%. Females aged 18 – 21 are three or more times likely to turn to drugs, alcohol, or sex to deal with perfection pressure than girls aged 13 – 17.
On the message she put on her wrists and the one she wrote on her hands: Lovato tattooed the words “stay strong” on her wrists as a reminder that healing and being healthier takes time. The “Love Is Louder Than the Pressure to Be Perfect” campaign encouraged her – and other young women – to turn around negative messages and pressure by writing this positive message on their hands with lipstick, pen, or marker. For more on Demi, the campaign, and pushing back against the pressure to be perfect, check this out. Article by Yahoo! Shine