• Liv Conlon

Challenging Ideas of Masculinity

A Thought Leader is someone who is not afraid to challenge social norms and move outside of their comfort zone, and in changing their life they enable others to follow in their footsteps.

Ben Bidwell is a mindset coach, writer & public speaker who is pioneering a revolution to change the stigma about mental health. He invites his audience to connect more with their emotions whilst empowering men to retain their authentic masculinity. Off the back of his engaging blog ‘The Naked Professor’ & the intimate conversations on The Naked Professors podcast, he has become a popular & inspirational voice in the personal development space.

Ben's modern ways of thinking have seen him receive significant press from leading publications (The Independent, Forbes, Grazia, Happiful, Esquire & Men’s Health) and appear on some of the most recognisable daytime TV & online shows including Sky News and This Morning. He has delivered a wide variety of professional talks to different audiences, from the prisoners at Pentonville Prison to the corporates at HSBC, to festivals and events such as Wilderness. His extremely relatable style of public speaking brings vulnerability, knowledge & open dialogue on subjects that really matter.

Liv: Tell me about your background and what sent you on the path you're currently on, Ben.

Ben: It can be a bit of a taboo subject, although it certainly hasn't been for me.

It's an interesting story because for me it stemmed around sex and and I wouldn't have changed if it wasn't for that challenge. In my 20s, I was ticking all the boxes, girls and parties; everything society told me should be great. If it wasn't for this challenge around sex, I don't think I would have gone on this journey, even though the emptiness was there.

I didn't know how to find self love, so I didn't really know what connection was and I was kind of distant. My only drive at the time was to try and change things around sex, and that was that I'd always struggle to orgasm. At the age of 30 I started working with a coach and I opened the doors to vulnerability and authenticity.

I'm 38 now and this has been a journey of self discovery for the past 8 years. I've been becoming a new version of myself and I've added a lot of skills, but I'm still the same person in many ways.

Liv: How difficult was it to open up?

Ben: Tony Robbins always says that change only happens when the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change, and I guess I had enough of 30 years of pain. I knew I had to change the emptiness and the pain around sex

I loved my mum but I never really told her that, and if connecting all my emotions and sharing them is going to eventually help me sexually, then I knew I had to do that.

For a lot of people, they don't know what they're going to uncover if they go rummaging about in their emotions and I was the same. I think helping people to reflect and open up is such an important thing, and if we could change the perception about it then it has the potential to be really powerful.

Liv: Where did the idea for The Naked Professor blog come from?

Ben: I was qualified as a coach, but my main job was running a tech company. I was struggling with that and I felt a bit out of control. I wanted something that I owned that, regardless of what's going on in my life, I at least had control of that.

I knew that I was ready to be open and emotional, and share my journey and my learnings. I knew my message was a little different to other people. I was taking off a mask and I was baring my soul. I was all the kind of cliches that you can be synonymous with and you associate with being naked.

At the time, Instagram was all about catchy handles, and The Naked Professor just came to me. I had to stand out. That's where I thought my images of physically stripping myself off and putting myself in these iconic locations could at least capture some imagination and represent what I was writing about.

It gave me a story and it caught people's attention.

Liv: What would your advice be for ignoring traditional societal norms of masculinity?

Ben: It's giving men a licence to say you can be a successful businessman and a very soft loving husband and father as well. You can be both.

You don't need to bracket yourself into one category and be one person in all aspects. Finding that balance is a superpower.

This is my huge message around masculinity. I'm not trying to strip away anything from you, I want to keep empowering you to be that man who is achieving what you want to achieve. I also want to help you find that other other side of you that can find connection, that can be in deep loving relationships and that can be present for your kids.

Liv: I know that your podcast guests are often traditional alpha male figures, but they often open up to sharing their emotions when interviewed. Where did the idea for the podcast come and why do you think it has been so successful?

Ben: The first series we found that it was mostly women that wanted to come talk, but we found it more powerful when we had a man come in. In the first episodes we took a chance on a Scottish Rugby Player, Jim Hamilton.

He's 6'8, covered in tattoos and he was the enforcer on the pitch. He said he didn't know much about mental health, but he was up for talking about it so we thought we'd give it a crack. It was the most impactful episode we've done.

We got deep into a conversation about his dad, and how he was desperate for his dad's validations of approval growing up. That had driven his entire life. What we were seeing in the room was this beautiful soft Jim, who was just so happy to have this opportunity to have a conversation and not have to be the tough guy. He didn't have to carry this mask of being that man anymore. We were like, wow, the next series has to be focused on men.

It's just been really beautiful. It's a privilege for me to have conversations to get to see the depths of human beings and get underneath the masks.

Liv: You've went through a transformation and now you're helping other people going through the same thing. Where has the desire to help others come from?

Ben:When I went through change and experienced the positives, I was like, wow, this feels better now. If I can change and I can go through this then I know it's possible for everyone. That put me in a really strong position as a coach. For me personally, it's about looking beyond anyone and the challenges they've got and saying, I know we can get to a different place. I know, I've been there. I know what you're saying.

It felt like my duty after 30 years of blocking so much of this stuff out. It felt like this is it for me. This is what it's about. All of my experiences and everything I've been through led me to this point where I'm so passionate to share the lessons I've learned. I love tapping into that space and going there. It matters to me.

Liv: How do you think that we should go about creating real social change to tackle these traditional views of masculinity?

Ben: So for me in society, it's about changing the perception that when people are doing wrong not to judge them for being a bad person, but to think about what they've been through to lead them to behave that way. Can we uncover that? We need to make that a healthy part of society and the way that we live and to help people unravel those challenges, so that they can live with an open heart that can give them fulfilment, rather than being led by their stories of past experiences.

That's the shift that I'm trying to automate. I love the quote that says your wound is not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility. It's taking blame and judgement away from people's behaviour. It's about allowing that space for them to step into this new possibility of returning back to who they were as a child which is ultimately being free, loving, kind, compassionate and all those beautiful things that we have inherently as human beings until we have experiences that tell us we need to be strong, tough and cold. That's the change that I want to see.

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