The former Bachelor, 32, sat down with Trista Sutter on the Tuesday, July 6, episode of her “Better Etc.” podcast to discuss how being in the public eye has impacted his mental health. Five years after his journey to find The One aired, Higgins is back in his native Indiana to do some soul searching.
“I am back in Indiana right now because of a breakdown, again, in my life where I don’t know what’s happening,” he admitted. “I don’t know what this next season of life looks like for me. I’m farther and farther removed from the show, and at the same time, I need to figure out what my life is going to look like and what my legacy is going to be.”
The beginning of his next chapter is “really exciting,” but also comes with a little fearfulness for the future. “It’s also really hard,” he told the original Bachelorette, 48. “I’m at a low place, I don’t see myself as this thriving figure right now. I’m kind of lamenting and separating myself from a lot of things that I held close.”
Bachelor Nation fans met Higgins in 2015 during Kaitlyn Bristowe‘s season 11 of The Bachelorette. He ended the season as second runner-up and was later named the lead for season 20 of The Bachelor. Higgins proposed to Lauren Bushnell during the March 2016 finale, but the pair ended their engagement in May 2017.
Though his journey ultimately ended in heartbreak, being on reality TV presented Higgins with a variety of opportunities. “All of a sudden I go from feeling like I’m an outsider to, over a period of time, having enough people tell me that I’m awesome to start feeling pretty good about [myself],” he said on Tuesday. “I start building an identity around that. I started to really feel like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the thing that I was needing to fill me. … I’ll be in the in-group forever.’”
However, his “infatuation” for fame “started to fade,” and the more he tried to “reach” to stay relevant, the more he felt like he’d “lost” himself. “I was living not just for other people, but just for other people’s attention,” the Bachelor Winter Games alum recalled.
Right before the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, Higgins started to “divorce [him]self” from trying to fight for other people’s approval.
“It was, selfishly, one of the most unhealthy and best times for me,” he said of the pandemic. “I saw everybody else around me slow down. … What I recognized then is [that] I was measuring myself on everybody else still, more than I knew.”
Sutter, for her part, found that she could relate to Higgins’ experience more than she expected. “Pretty much everyone these days — especially because of social media — we do the comparisons, like, all frickin’ day long,” she said. “[It’s] really, really hard to handle these days.”
The Dancing With the Stars alum then proposed that she and Higgins team up to start a “Bachelor’s Anonymous” group to help other past stars cope with the transitions in their life post-show.
This isn’t the first time Higgins, who’s currently engaged to Jessica Clarke, has opened up about his lowest moments. In his memoir, Alone in Plain Sight, he went into detail about being addicted to painkillers in high school.
“It’s not a beautiful season of life,” he told Us Weekly exclusively in February, admitting it’s “still tough” to talk about his struggle. “Not a lot of people know it in my own life, like, a lot of people don’t know that side [of me]. Because it’s not something you go around and parade around when you’re in it. It’s not something you talk about often, but [it’s] healing in a lot of ways to write it and to know what’s out there.”
He added at the time, “I hope that somebody out there can read it and go, ‘Hey, I’m in it too. And there’s a way out, but also while I’m still in it, like, I don’t have to be ashamed.’”