The 'Nothing's Real But Love' singer split from her fellow X Factor contestant in July after a four-month relationship.
Reminiscing about the fling, Ferguson said that she did not expect to be "attacked" over the couple's six-year age gap, but was pleased that she had been able to withstand such criticism.
"It's not easy being in a high-profile relationship," she told The Sun. "I'm glad it started early in my career because it was a great big lesson for me.
"I was getting a lot of criticism and it's not nice to be attacked. I was 24 and he was 18 so it's not perfect but it's not that bad. If I had been a man, nobody would have batted an eyelid."
Ferguson recently confessed that her upcoming album Heaven was partly inspired by her split from Malik.
Watch Rebecca Ferguson in the video for 'Nothing's Real But Love' below: