Rising Above Expectations: Danny Williams on Mental Health, Fitness, and Authenticity
From growing up on a council estate in Hull to his appearance on national TV, Danny Williams speaks about his rise to fame, his view on societal issues, and his breakthrough into his career as a Mental Health and Exercise Coach.
Admitting that he doesn’t always stick to his morning routine, he speaks about the importance of being accepting of that, as he says, “-but that’s okay, because no one is perfect, and not everything in life is an act of performance”.
Having a casual conversation after Danny’s spin class, he laughs, and claims that it was “humbling”, but he’ll “definitely be going back”.
Originally, he started off by working as a Personal Trainer, but through meeting others in the industry, he was able to realise a gap in the market in regards to the correlation of mental health in fitness training, with many of his clients having an interest in improving their discipline, self awareness and confidence, leading Danny to become extremely passionate about supporting people with mental health struggles. “Because of the obvious interlink between mental health and physical training, we're clearly missing a trick by not studying it in greater detail. If we can just bridge the gap instead of stretching it, we can help so many more people.”
Taking the time to further educate himself on the concept of mental health through courses, this opened Danny’s eyes to the problems that need to be addressed in the fitness industry, and becoming a Personal Trainer was a lightbulb moment for him to showcase how he can provide a positive impact and societal change, as he’s always taken an interest in serving others.
He says, “Yes, having a six pack is great, and can essentially help an individual feel good, but it doesn't always solve their deeper problems, and I feel like a big flaw in the fitness industry today is the focus on the desire for physical transformation, while simply neglecting the need for mental health improvement in our society - and I feel like its potentially hurting more people than its helping them”.
Danny had the opportunity to appear on the National Reality TV series of Love Island in 2019, and is forever grateful for the fortunate events that have taken place afterwards, though believes that being put on such a recognised TV platform may place a layer of pressure on UK creators such as himself to continue to embark on the social media content creation journey.
“I could earn so much more money if I posted shirtless tops on social media, and tried to get as many people interested in my fitness training via that route - like the majority of fitness trainers today, but that poses a lot of danger to societal perceptions, and creates a false narrative! We all have this image of the ideal body, and I’d never want anyone to think that I have my whole life put together if I posted like that on social media”.
Speaking about the importance of loving one's body, and embracing personal uniqueness, we spoke about the value of exercising because it makes one feel good, not necessarily because it makes you look good. Danny believes that, “Slowly but surely, the tide is turning, and people are becoming more aware of the mental health issues that can be improved through fitness training. More people are exercising now just to improve their mental health and I think that it’s brilliant!”
He reveals that before Reality TV, he worked as a model. “My whole life revolved around my physical appearance - day in day out, and I very much tied my self worth and identity to that, which can be a worrying and unhealthy place to be….for anyone!”
Despite being very active on social media, Danny claims that the pressure of being in the public eye is not an issue to him, as his love for his career is more fulfilling than any public attraction could ever be.
“Because of the Love Island contestants being placed on such a high pedestal by society, there’s many perceptions being created about contestants because of how their social media pages look, and people always assume that our lives must be glamorous. It took a bit of work for me to detach myself from that pressure to live up to societal standards”.
Our brain is a muscle, and similarly to how you train your body in the gym for results, our brains need a significant amount of training to detach itself from public expectations, anxious thoughts and a negative frame of mind, but it's certainly possible!
“It's such an easy trap to fall into,” Danny says, “and I’m not the only one. We live in a society where everything is defined by physical appearance, but I believe that our identity comes from our core values, such as how we operate on a day to day basis and how we treat other people. Having materialistic possessions, and driving fancy cars doesn't even scratch the surface in comparison to how valuable and worthy we are as humans. It took a lot of time to realise that I am a valuable person, which has absolutely nothing to do with how I look!”
When asked about the origin of inspiration to become a Mental Health and Exercise Coach, his response reveals that there's a few factors that play to his growing interest in the industry, the first being a mentor of his many years ago, telling him to ‘Be the change that you want to see…’
“As cringe as it sounds,” Danny laughs, “It’s the simple truth!”
Danny encourages any of our gen z audience reading this piece, who are currently going through mental health problems on a daily basis such as low self esteem or anxiety, to realise that what's hidden within your inner core is so much more valuable than what’s being perceived through your outer shell. As a Mental Health Coach, he believes that techniques such as breath work, having cold showers, and eating healthier by focusing on your nutritional values are simple ways to potentially make your day feel that much better!
When asked about his communication style in relation to motivating his clients, Danny mentions how he focuses on the aspect of relatability, by closing the gap of the lifestyle differences between his client and himself, and building that element of trust and teamwork that’s embedded in this work style. He believes that connection between the client and trainer can be often lacking or merely overlooked by coaches, and is very important, as it eventually leads to a successful partnership and growth on both parts. He believes that creating a comforting atmosphere amongst his clients is vital for a successful session.
He’s aware that many individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds have traditional values and may struggle with opening up regarding their mental health - especially men, but believes this can possibly encourage all;
“Vulnerability is strength, and if an individual is willing to be open about their struggles, then I will argue that they are an even stronger person than those who suppress their inner emotions. We all have trauma, we all have issues, and real strength comes from developing yourself from within”.
As we dive deeper into the issues of mental health, Danny confidently reveals that he’s in therapy, and advises young people to seek help when necessary, without any shame, as it creates a stronger character in you once you address your struggles.
Bringing up the fact that as a human race, naturally, we don’t like to feel uncomfortable, and love to showcase our best self, but this can often become detrimental over time, Danny smiles, saying, “I believe that at the other side of discomfort, there’s always growth”.
When asked to dish out any advice to young creatives looking for a breakthrough in their careers, Danny believes in the importance of “looking inward,” as he believes that “what’s inside of you is much more valuable than what the world's view of you has to offer”.
Laughing, he quotes a lyric by Drake, saying “Don’t ever take advice that was great advice”, explaining that it’s important to have a vision, as it’ll stop you from being swayed by the opinions of people who don’t share the same ambition, plan or initial idea as you.
“If you know where you’re heading, only take directions from yourself”, he continues.
Danny mentions how, “Many individuals seek validation and acceptance from others, and many of them believe that being a television star provides them with that, but there’s a lack of fulfilment that’s often attached to this lifestyle, if it’s not truly what your heart desires. I would encourage people to seek the more fulfilling things, even if they are less rewarding financially…”.
When asked about what’s in store for him in the future, Danny responds gladly by saying, “I’m still figuring things out for myself. I might change careers, I might change industries - who knows? I’m very happy with the life I’m living now, but I’m also very open to change. Nobody knows what the future holds, and there's a certain amount of peace that comes with accepting that”.
Having launched his online business last year, Danny’s currently working on its growth and scalability, with the desire to provide genuine value to support the masses with their health - but believes that there is no rush, as he tries to focus on the concept of being journey driven, rather than outcome driven.
There’s infinite value within every single person on this earth, which is just waiting to be discovered….
Fun fact: Danny’s current favourite rite meal to cook right now is Pasta - he’s quite the chef!
Interview & words by: Chelsea Abili