Justin Bieber arrives at Wango Tango 2015 in Carson, Calif. on May 9, 2015.
Richard Shotwell—Invision/AP
May 12, 2015 5:05 PM EDT

Justin Bieber spent a tough few years in the spotlight and admits even he wasn’t happy with himself during that time.

“I was rebelling a little bit. I was getting cockier and cockier. I didn’t have people to check me,” Bieber tells Seventeen of his past mistakes in the magazine’s June/July issue. “I looked back and I was disappointed in myself.”

The singer – who has been apologizing over the past few months for his bad decisions – admits, “You have to own up to the mistakes.”

“You have to say, ‘I’m sorry if I’ve let you down,’ ” Bieber, 21, explains. “I always want to be honest and let people know that those mistakes aren’t who I am. Who I am is someone who really cares about people.”

And the star – who has been a global phenom ever since he shot to fame at 13 – says he was consumed with approval from social media for a bit.

“For a while, I was busy looking at my Instagram likes, and if a post didn’t get a certain amount, I was like, ‘Aw, they didn’t like the photo,’ ” Bieber, who has 27 million Instagram followers, admitted.

He adds: “But there’s always a choice: You can let Instagram or stuff on the Internet affect your day, or you can choose to not be bothered by it.”

Now, Bieber is focusing on surrounding himself with people who won’t pass judgment on him.

“I need healthy relationships with people I can feel safe with,” he shares. “People I can say whatever to, and I’m not going to be judged.”

As far as a girlfriend, Bieber – who was in an on-and-off relationship with Selena Gomez – seems to know exactly what he’s looking for.

“In a girl, I want someone who’s confident in herself and honest,” he says. “I have to find her very attractive and as someone I can see myself with for the rest of my life.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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