Ben Bidwell is a man who likes to get naked. Professionally, at least. Bidwell is the brains (and torso) behind The Naked Professor Instagram account and podcast. He doesn’t get naked just for the hell of it – he’s on a mission to encourage men to be more attuned to themselves, to look deeper, and to discover a more authentic self. To find their true purpose – and pursue it. We spoke to Bidwell – who is currently writing a book about “why men behave as they do” – for the final instalment in our series for Men’s Health Awareness Month. He talks to us about leaving the corporate race, getting his clothes off, and how we can all improve our mental health.
How was The Naked Professor born?
In the past, I was living a life that wasn't authentic. I felt like something was missing – that I wasn’t expressing myself. I wasn’t being creative. I was working a 9-to-5, then having fun at the weekend, but I got the Sunday night blues hard. I didn’t have much pride in that. I didn't feel like I was showing up. I knew something had to change. So, I started writing about that online, baring my soul. And having previously worked in tech I knew that the online space was a very busy noisy place. Everyone has a message these days. I needed something to capture people's imagination to bring my message alive. I looked at what I was writing about, and it’s all very emotional, a stripped-back type of thing and I thought, well, hang on, I should use imagery to reflect that. And so, I took my clothes off and went to iconic locations. The name followed.
You mentioned this point of knowing something had to change. What was the catalyst for taking the leap?
So, I accidentally started seeing a coach. I’d always had this challenge around sex. I struggled to orgasm. When I got to my 30s, I realised, you know, I quite want a sexually fulfilling relationship and kids and that. So that was part of it as well as work. At the time I was living with a professional rugby player and he had an injury. He started working with a hypnotherapist to try and help him get his mind beyond the injury. It was a bad one that hindered him for a while, she used to come to our flat to work with him; I started to have these sporadic conversations before and after his sessions with her. Because of that, I started to work properly with a coach. They opened my eyes to the fact I was ticking boxes and that I was living to impress other people – but I wasn't impressing myself.
You have spoken about finding purpose, why is that important?
I've learned that your mind can either be your best friend or for a lot of people, unfortunately, it's your worst enemy. Mine was having such a negative impact on my life and leading to some of the challenges that I experienced. So, I started to learn how it worked and looked at human behaviour. And I really look now to help people understand how they operate as humans, why they behave as they do. The purpose part comes from something called logotherapy, which is an extension of Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning in which he was sent to Auschwitz and he survived, and he wrote a book. One of his key survival mechanisms in the camp was to continue to give himself purpose while he was trapped. He wrote about how important that was for him and how it gives us all vision and hope for the future. I think it's missing for a lot of people – they operate in an autopilot mode. One of the most common thoughts people have on their deathbed is that they wish they'd lived their life with more purpose, and more authenticity.
How do we set about becoming more authentic and find a sense of true purpose?
More feeling less thinking. And answer the question: what makes you feel really proud of the person you are? What really gives you a sense of fulfilment? There's a theory that says that if something makes you happy, but it doesn't last long it’s not really one of your deep values. So, it’s about finding that deeper thing that sustains you. It can be difficult at first because you really have to ask yourself some hard questions. For instance, take drinking. Is drinking really making you happy? Or is it momentary?
When you are helping people with their mental health, what is the key piece of advice you give?
Good mental health starts with a good relationship with yourself. And to have a good relationship with yourself, you need to know who you really are and what you value deeply. So, start by looking within yourself to discover what really matters to you properly.