SZA is known to leave her most vulnerable layers within the lyrics of her music, and in a recent interview as part of Finish Line’s Community Voices series, the R&B singer opened up about her struggles with mental health while navigating her career in the music industry.
In light of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Grammy-award-winning artist joined the Community Voices’ 100th episode to discuss the impact being in the public eye has had on her self-perception and confidence over the years.
“This is the most psychosis-inducing industry that I can think of,” she said. “There’s so much perception, there’s so much being perceived. There’s so much validation of self, [questioning] ‘what is the reason you’re doing this,’ and even if you find your reason, it’s hard to hold on to it.”
SZA shared the challenges she’s experienced coming into her own, while still being held to the expectation of living up to her past work and public perceptions. “That sh-t is a head trip. And it definitely creates this weird bubble of unrealistic expectations, and [it’s] kind of feeling dehumanized, and [feeling like], ‘maybe I’m a product.’”
Although she finds refuge in her creation process, she admits that she sometimes wonders if her skin is thick enough for all the scrutiny and online bullying that comes with stardom.
“So many times I’m like, ‘Damn, I’m about to go be a farmer. My contract is about to expire, I might as well be a farmer,’” she said. “Because the pressure of dropping another album, making sure my deals make sense […] building this life is way harder than abdicating my responsibility [as an artist].”
She continued, “The physical exhaustion, the mental exhaustion does not come from making music. I love making music. I love creating. It’s kind of my own source of therapy and meditation, but the exhaustion really comes from expectations, berating, and dehumanizing from outside forces. And that sh-t makes me feel like, ‘Why am I doing this? Why would I set myself up to be bodied like this on a regular basis?’”
The “Kiss Me More” artist deleted her popular TikTok in light of Mental Health Awareness Month and told fans at the time, “Get off the internet. The internet is demonic. I deleted my TikTok for mental health awareness month. I encourage everyone to delete anything anyone and everything that doesn’t serve you. Bless.”
While it’s been challenging for the 32-year-old artist to accept the harsh treatment she receives online, she has found a number of outlets that have helped her cope with the everyday stressors of life. “I’m an escape artist, so I love to get gone,” she said in her interview. “I love to hit an island, go for a walk at a local park, or just go to the beach and sit down.” She adds, “I feel like physical activity, being outside, and also prayer is really powerful for me.”
SZA ended the transparent conversation on a note of gratitude, adding that she looks to focus more on her artistry (and sophomore album) and less on the detractors and negativity.
“I’m just grateful to be able to talk in this space. I’m just trying to keep growing and do it in front of millions of people; which makes it nerve-racking. I’m just trying to be brave so that other people can maybe be brave or maybe they’ll lack empathy and attack me more… I don’t know,” she said. “I just have to do my job in who God designed me to be.”