One year ago, Ben Bidwell was running a tech start-up business. Today he’s one of Instagram’s rising mental health stars, posing nude in public to inspire people to lead better lives. Here, The Naked Professor reveals his journey of self discovery, and lays bare 10 tips for freeing your mind, discovering your true self, and being proud of who you are
Just after sunrise, before commuters spill onto the pavements and the city wakes, Ben Bidwell stands in front of a London landmark, peels off his clothes, and a camera starts to click. The resulting photography isn’t tacky, sleazy or indecent. It is, more accurately, art with a very powerful message – to encourage people to be more vulnerable and self-connected.
Ben’s blog, The Naked Professor, was born a year ago when he was running a tech start-up business and feeling overwhelmed, financially stressed, and struggling with anxiety. A creative distraction from his worries, the blog also gave Ben a platform to share his education in mental wellness, which began six years earlier when he employed a life coach to help combat a sexual complication – delayed ejaculation. What Ben initially deemed a physical problem, he now believes was rooted in being historically shut off from his emotions.
“Your body talks to you, and if you’re not showing up and being yourself, it could manifest itself in anxiety, depression, emptiness or, in my case, sexually,” explains Ben.
“As the youngest of three, I’d grown up struggling to get my voice heard, thinking I wasn’t of value, and I lacked the confidence to show who I really was. When I met people, I felt I had to validate myself.”
After university, working as a chartered surveyor, Ben had lots of friends and a good income. On paper he was living the dream, but inside he felt dissatisfied, and uninspired.
“I was the person I thought society wanted to see,” he says. “I was trying to be a man, so I wouldn’t show vulnerability or insecurities. I wanted to be creative and follow my heart, but I wasn’t inspiring myself. I didn’t feel alive.”
Ben, who recently closed his tech company, now works as a life coach and meditation teacher, and is proud of the man he is. He lives by honesty, truth and vulnerability – qualities reflected in the message behind his naked snaps – and this month launches a mental health podcast with pal, TV presenter, and mental health advocate Matt Johnson. The pair have secured a host of high-profile contributors, including Davina McCall and Matt Willis.
“This isn’t the glitz and glamour of their Instagram page; we want to know how they are, really. This is their truth,” says Ben, adding he wants to make mental health relatable to the masses.
“Learning about mental health isn’t only relevant to you if you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Just like training your body, training your mind is an everyday investment in order to become a better version of yourself.”
Ben’s top 10 tips for baring your soul and becoming your best self:
1) Develop self-awareness
Spend time alone and ask yourself: “Am I living a life that’s inspiring myself? Am I proud of who I am by my actions?” If the answer is “no”, think what you can do. Society points us in the direction of quick pleasure fixes – a scoop of ice cream, going to a party, or getting likes on Instagram. Do these things make us proud of who we are? No. Self love comes from looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking “I’ve done good things today, I’m integral, I’m honest.”
2) Mentor and meditate
Awareness is the first stage of change. The next can be finding a mentor to help you. When I realised I needed to improve, I tried hypnotherapy, but a month later changed to life coaching and NLP, because the conversation seemed more rational to me.
Meditation has also helped me understand myself. At a basic level, when we shut our eyes, there’s nothing to see, so you go inward. Finding the right way of meditating is like therapy – it has to be right for you. For me, classical music gets me into a lovely calm place.
3) Speak honestly
The biggest lie we tell every day is in response to the question “how are you?” Most of us reply “fine”, when often we aren’t. I now always speak what comes from my heart, not my head, because I’m not trying to impress people. Be vulnerable enough to not need other people’s validation. “How are you?” is also the most important question we could ask, and yet the most irrelevant because it’s become a formality. Empower that question. Really ask how someone is, and really listen to their response.
4) Be thankful
Being grateful for the things we have, rather than envious of the things we don’t, is the pathway to happiness. A good place to start is writing down three new things you’re grateful for every morning.
5) Understand that thoughts affect behaviour
Get into a habit of thinking in a way that is positive to your day. On the way to a public speaking engagement, two schools of thought come into my head. One is: “Do you know what you’re talking about?” The other is: “What an opportunity to be able to help and influence people.” If I dwell on the voice that doubts my ability, I’ll be a quivering wreck on stage and won’t inspire anyone. The voice inside your head has a big impact on how you operate.
The Naked Professors Podcast is coming soon. Follow Ben on Instagram