After more than 15 years in the spotlight, Selena Gomez knew it was time to get out of Hollywood. Earlier this year, the “It Ain’t Me” singer quietly moved out of LA and relocated more than 30 miles south to suburban Orange County, Calif., with her close friend Raquelle Stevens. “It’s been such a release. LA’s just gotten really claustrophobic for me,” Selena told Elle magazine recently. “I’m going back to simplicity…. I’m so happy.” 

It’s not just because of the change of scenery. The 26-year-old former child star — who has been open about her lifelong battle with demons such as depression and anxiety — has removed all the bad influences in her life and decided to start fresh. 

In the course of just a few months earlier this year, she sought professional help in a treatment facility for the second time since 2014, purged superficial friends and dumped Justin Bieber. “They were all crucial moments for her recovery,” says an insider, who calls “Baby” singer Justin, 24, a “toxic influence,” adding, “Her early fame, the relationship with Justin and the easy access to the party lifestyle were the root of all her problems.” And so after watching friends like Demi Lovato self-destruct, Selena knew she didn’t want to go down the same path. Says the insider, “She’s been to hell and back, and she refused to let fame destroy her.” 

Last year was especially rough. After undergoing a kidney transplant that was necessary due to her battle with the autoimmune disease lupus, she abruptly split with The Weeknd in October and took Justin back, which terrified her loved ones. “Justin creates havoc in Selena’s life,” a friend told In Touch at the time. But yet again, they split. “She ended it once and for all,” says a source. “It was life-changing. She knew that if she had the strength to end things with Justin for good, she was capable of achieving anything.” 

Selena finally got him out of her system in early 2018 — and ditched a few other people as well. “She’s dropped all of her fake celebrity friends and acquaintances,” the source says of the star, who went on a social media unfollowing spree and stopped worrying about what online commenters think of her. (At the time of the Elle interview, she said she hadn’t been on the internet “in months.”) These days says the insider, “she counts her friends on one hand and strongly believes in quality over quantity.” 

She also took time to focus on herself. A two-week mental health tune-up at a Connecticut rehab facility helped (see sidebar). “[I’ve done] a lot of self-discovery. I feel like a totally different person,” Selena told Elle. To that end, she now works five days a week with an anti-human trafficking charity. “She gives back to people less fortunate, she writes music, she prays and she meditates every day to stay positive,” says the insider, noting that Selena’s also working on a new album. “She’s living life to the fullest, not taking anything for granted. She knows she’s been given a second chance, and she’s not messing that up.”

After years of turmoil, Selena is finally at peace. “Right now,” she says, “I feel very sure of where I am. I don’t feel erratic or emotionally unstable. Or like I can’t handle my emotions like I used to. It feels good.”

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