We can’t get enough of podcasts here at Female First. That’s why every week, we’re reviewing our favourite one to binge-listen to.
The great thing about podcasts is how conveniently simple they are to consume – you could be driving, cooking, working out – they require no visual engagement. All you need is a handy device to listen on, and you can go about your daily life listening to whatever you enjoy.
From crime to comedy, history to health, there’s something for everyone in the wonderful world of audio programmes.
Our favourite podcast this week is The Naked Professors.
Why: The Naked Professors tackle different issues surrounding mental health. It’s an open, honest podcast, with speakers that have gone through their own personal challenges. They take away stigma surrounding mental health and are part of a wider movement to get people talking about personal difficulties that were once seen as taboo.
Who’s the host? Matt Johnson and Ben Bidwell host the podcast. Ben is a life coach, public speaker and author of the mental health blog @thenakedprofessor. You may recognise Matt already, as he is a well-known TV presenter. They met on a flight to Ibiza in 2017 as they were both travelling to the same wedding – but had never met before! They stayed in contact and that friends became podcasters. The rest is history!
What’s it about? Each episode addresses different ‘taboo’ subjects. Ben and Matt speak to different celebrity guests about their own struggles and how they learned to overcome them.
Where can I listen? The Naked Professors is available to listen to on iTunes, Spotify and Acast.
We were lucky enough to chat to Ben and Matt about their podcast and find out all the details about The Naked Professors, from how they met, to the biggest challenges they have faced so far…
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves, when you first met and how you turned that chance meeting into producing the podcast?
Matt: I started working with Mind as a mental health ambassador in 2013, after I first came clean about my own dealings with mental health, because 10 years ago now, I was in a pretty bad spot with depression etc.
Since 2013 I’ve been in some sort of weird, elaborate, painful and wonderful journey of self-discovery. and to work on my own mental health to help other people with their own mental health. It’s been an incredible process and journey for me. It took me to LA last year, I wanted to set up a new company and new TV show or something, an interview platform where I would interview people who had similar situations to me with mental health and it disastrously went really wrong.
I came back and felt a bit of a failure because I went out there on my own and tried to do too much, but in the period between coming back I met Ben. We met on a flight to Ibiza in 2017 and we kept in contact. I was on his podcast, he was trying to do a podcast, I was trying to do this TV show, and a friend of mine, Sophie Gradon, quite suddenly passed away. It made me have more energy to get up and do something more immediate and more accessible and more frequent.
So, Ben and I, we sat down, and it just felt like a eureka moment with the both of us to do a podcast together. So, after a coincidental serendipitous meeting on a flight to Ibiza to our friend’s wedding to nearly a year later, we decided to create this podcast and it’s been the most remarkable experience of my entire life professionally.
Ben: I had just started my blog in the Summer of 2017 when I boarded a plane to Ibiza for a friend's wedding. I sat down in a row that strangely only had two seats and soon found I was joined by a very handsome and charming Welshman! I had an inkling he was a mutual friend of the bride, so I sparked up conversation and quickly learned that his name was Matt Johnson and that he was indeed on the way to the same wedding.
Having just come back from NZ with work, Matt was pretty excited about getting two hours rest on the upcoming flight. Sadly for him, things didn't pan out that way as we cut the small talk and found ourselves in a deep conversation about mental health! I talked about my blog and the journey that took me there, Matt explained the challenges he had faced and the work he did for mental health charity Mind. Our worlds had collided and for the next 2 hours Matt got no sleep, but we had a wonderful conversation!
When we returned to London, I wanted to start my own podcast channel so I asked Matt if we could record his story. We did, but before I had got around to releasing it, Matt and I had begun discussions about taking our united message further. The logical thing was for us to join forces and do the podcast together. We set up a meeting with an incredible production company called Create productions and "The Naked Professors" was born!
Q: What have been your favourite episodes to record so far and why?
Matt: Choosing my favourite episode so far is so difficult because they’re all so different. They all bring something different to the table depending on who we speak to, depending on their experiences etc, and it depends if we know them already or not. Davina McCall’s podcast is going to be very special to me because it was our first, it was genuinely the first time me and Ben actually sat down and did a podcast and we did it somebody with a magnitude of Davina McCall, which was incredibly special.
I think personally, when we had Jim Hamilton, the rugby player, the Scottish rugby player, we hit on something we have been trying to do and it was a big discussion about masculinity, about being vulnerable, and it being okay and it being a big strength.
It was a moment where Jim had actually shared something with us and with our listeners that he’d never spoken about before in public or even to anybody he knew so it was a complete honest and open discussion about masculinity and what it takes to be a man. All these things which is one of the major problems in our society where men are more and more of a certain age committing suicide.
I just thought it was a pivotal moment where we just looked at each other, myself and Ben and just went this is what it’s all about, this is what we need to do, we need to get rugby players, footballers, boxers, both sexes and we need to have them be honest because it was just powerful, words were so important and Jim was an absolute legend.
Ben: Every conversation has been special in a different way and I can hand on heart say that each one has given me a huge amount. However, there was something very, very special about our conversation with international rugby player and super alpha man, Jim Hamilton. Here was a 6'8, huge, tough guy opening up about things he hadn't ever shared before in an incredibly engaging and vulnerable way.
We didn’t really know what to expect from Jim but the energy in the room that afternoon was so special - to hear an alpha man talking about how much he loves his wife and kids and how all he wants is for his kids to grow into adults as good people, really gave me huge faith in humanity.
The other aspect for me is that where I think Matt and I stand, is that we want to change this perception that men are either the alpha type i.e. strong, tough, and as a result emotionally closed off, OR they are weak, vulnerable and therefore emotional. Where we come from is that a man can be manly, he can be strong, brave, still have some of the macho male tendencies, but alongside it he can also be kind, empathetic and loving. These character traits don't need to be exclusive to one another. This was Jim all over!
Q: Did you have any personal challenges talking about these topics - and how did you combat them?
Matt: Yeah, constantly! I always feel when I talk about my personal experiences, when I listen and I am genuinely present in that moment, you can’t help but feel something. I feared that it would take a lot out of me but weirdly, it gives me strength. I feel like I’m energised, and Ben would agree.
We both leave these podcasts, meetings, discussions and talks that we do feeling energised because we’re so lucky to be sharing this information with people, and so lucky to be in a place where we can be honest and open.
People are being so receptive and we’re so lucky to hear people’s stories. It does affect me but only in a positive way, and that for me is wonderful because I feared that I was going to take something from me every time. But the exact opposite has happened, it’s energised me completely.
Ben: The only challenges I have in talking openly from my heart is that I don't want to negatively impact others. I don't believe I have done that, but I do know it can’t have been easy for my Dad watching me on national TV talking about the issue I have with sex.
The way I overcome that is to keep reminding myself that I haven't done anything wrong or have anything to be ashamed of. I may be speaking about something that is perhaps considered a taboo subject, but I didn’t ask for the issue I have, and I hoped to be able to help others in being the first to talk openly about it. What I learned is in fact wrong, is to bury it like I had done in the past, as it is burying these things that stops you from ever moving on from them.
My philosophy now is to show up and speak from my heart as often as I can, safe in the knowledge that my truth is my truth, and no one should ever be criticised for speaking their truth. I will always do that with consideration to not upset others.
Q: What do you want people to take away from listening to your podcast?
Matt: I don’t know. From what I gather and the interactions we’ve had, and it’s been incredible, is that people are listening to something new for the first time. I don’t think many people are talking about the things we are talking about and people can take from that what they want. Some people don’t like what we’re talking about because it’s scary to think in this certain way and it is fear of something you don’t understand sometimes is apparent.
But in general, I think what people take away is that they’re grateful for the honesty. It’s a frank, open conversation about mental health and life and all these questions that we have day to day. So hopefully what they can do is take away a sense of freedom - they can feel free to have these conversations with other people and discuss this with their partners, their family members and hopefully everybody will have these conversations because it’s quite easy to do that. It’s easy for me to say that now, at the start it was hard, but these conversations hopefully will happen elsewhere.
So, what I hope people will take away was that it’s okay to have these conversations, it’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s okay to be truthful and be transparent and to not be okay and not be perfect, failure is okay also. I just want people to be more honest with who they are.
Ben: The big thing for me is that we want our audience to understand that its ok not to be perfect.
We all have challenges (even our heroes) so the sooner we can understand this and have real conversations that actually matter, with compassion and kindness to both ourselves and others, the better the world will be.
Being vulnerable enough to accept we aren't perfect is a superhuman strength, it allows us to be authentic and real in a world full of people wearing masks to cover their insecurities. When you wear a mask, you will hinder true and powerful connection with others, something I know very well from my twenties!
Q: How do you think your podcast could help other people that are struggling with the issues that you discuss?
Matt: I really want people to understand that when we have guests on, and these people are their idols or their heroes, they think they’re successful and therefore have no problems. Everybody has problems, everybody body has mental health, everybody has ups and downs, even people that we idolise do and people who seem strong sometimes aren’t.
It’s okay to not be okay, it sounds cliché but it’s very true. That’s what I always want people to take away - that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, we all need to take care of each other, we all need to be mindful of our mental health and we all have bad times.
Together with an open discussion, hopefully we can help people through their bad times and move together for a better world.
Ben: Following on from above, we hope that our audience will understand that even their heroes aren't perfect and have major challenges in their life, so it's ok to admit they aren't perfect too. Awareness is the first stage of change so hopefully in helping people become more aware they can start the process of change and reconnect with their most authentic versions. None of us are alone, none of us are perfect, yet wearing a mask and covering our true self is bad for our mental health, let's all become less reliant on each other’s validation and more accepting of one another, warts and all.
You can listen to The Naked Professors on Acast, iTunes and Spotify.
Don’t forget to follow Matt and Ben on social media, too!