Nearly three years after seeking treatment for "emotional and physical issues," Demi Lovato has cultivated a new definition of what it means to be tough.
The 20-year-old singer and actress, who recently buried her estranged father, opens up in the August issue of Cosmopolitan about her new outlook and the struggles she still faces.
"If you're spending your entire early 20s chasing the next party, what are you running away from? That's not a bada**. What's a bada** is when you can sit through your problems and feel emotions when you don't want to have them."
Lovato has openly battled bulimia and self-harm, and she's documented her recovery in some of her music. Still, "there have been nights where I've had to sit on my hands, because I want to act out, because I physically can't sit still in the pain I'm dealing with, from looking back and being bullied or other things that happened," Lovato said. "And now, as hard as it may be, I will do that."
Lovato's troubles didn't begin with the infamous Jonas Brothers tour she bowed out of in 2010; rather, she tells Cosmopolitan, they stem all the way back to her childhood.
Now 20, Lovato can recall feeling suicidal at age 7, right around the time her career took off with her role on "Barney & Friends."
"At the time, I was just so grateful to be on TV, but I was also really struggling," she says. "Even before 'Barney,' I was suicidal. I was seven. With 'Barney,' I guess subliminally, I did have a relationship with this figure that was saving my life in a way ... I've talked about being bullied and the years of being a teenager, but I went through things when I was younger that I've never talked about that probably caused me to turn out the way I ended up turning out."
Although she's still facing painful experiences, she believes the suffering isn't in vain.
"I'm not super religious, but I grew up Christian and I believe in God," she tells Cosmo. "I just feel like God gave me a voice, not just to sing with. He put me through those things, which seemed horrible at the time, but they were so worth it. With the obstacles I've overcome, I can help people."
™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.