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Britney Spears Opens Up About Overcoming "Crippling Anxiety"

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Watching reigning queen of pop Britney Spears on stage at last weekend's VMAs, it's crazy to stop and think that at just 34 years old she has been in the public eye for nearly 20 years. She was a doe-eyed school girl when her monster hit of a first single, "...Baby One More Time," took over the charts in 1998. We've watched her grow up, get married, have babies, get divorced, and battle personal struggles with her mental health. Although Britney is the first to tell you that she's in a much better place both personally and professionally now (catch her for a show in her Las Vegas residency before it ends in February), that wasn't always the case.

Having the world watch her every move—from the good to the bad to the very ugly—took a big toll on the star. In her cover interview for Marie Claire UK, she reveals that being in such a "bubble" contributed to some pretty intense anxiety that she suffered with from the very beginning of her rise to fame. "I moved to Los Angeles when I was very young. I was so under scrutiny," she tells the mag. "If a hair was out of place, I'd be so anxious. I would get very anxious about so many things." (She's not the first celeb—and certainly not that last—to deal with difficult emotions that come with stardom. Just this week Selena Gomez announced that she'd be taking a break from touring and appearances to deal with her anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.)

Spears said that, today, she is so much more comfortable in her own skin—and credits that to her sons Sean Preston, 10, and Jayden James, 9. "Becoming a mother and being with my boys has made me so much more accepting of myself," she says. "That has been a really big thing for me over these last few years."

Spears went through so much to have a relationship with her boys (she currently shares custody of the kids with her ex-husband Kevin Federline as a result of a tense custody battle), and has come a long way since her head-shaving days, so it's great to see her putting her family and health first. That's not to say her career is taking a backseat, though. Her latest album, Glory, is climbing the charts along with its first single, "Make Me," solidifying that Britney isn't stepping down from her pop music throne any time soon.

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