Fans who tuned into season 26 of The Bachelor didn’t know the half of Clayton Echard’s “journey” — until now.
“I actually love the word journey, so don’t worry about giving me PTSD,” the 180 Degrees: On Mental Health, Mindfulness, and Unlocking Self-Belief author, 29, exclusively joked on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast about the popular Bachelor word. “But journey just is the best word for it. There is no other word. Experience sounds temporary. It sounds more manufactured to me. Journey encapsulates the highs and the lows and everything in between. It’s a process. It’s a long marathon, but it’s not a race.”
Beginning with insecurities in middle school and high school that followed him into his time within Bachelor Nation, Clayton writes about his battles with body dysmorphia and depression in his new book.
“I didn’t even know really what I was experiencing. I just had some extreme fixation on me,” he told Us of his body image struggles. “It’s become really easy for me to speak about. I’ve been vocal well before the show about it. I started having these conversations in college and I talk about it in the book, but I opened up to the wrong people and they used it against me. They weaponized my body image issues. They call me ‘bad body Ech.’ That was my nickname by some of my teammates in college because they knew that I didn’t like my body. … I would laugh it off, but in reality, they knew it bothered me. That’s the thing where I try to tell people — when you open up to the wrong people, it will hurt you. But when you open up to the right people, it’ll help you tremendously.”
Viewers were introduced to Clayton when ABC announced he was a contestant on Michelle Young’s season of The Bachelorette — and the season 26 lead before the show even premiered in fall 2022.
“They showed me at the beginning [of Michelle’s season] and they showed me at episode 6 when I get sent home or whatever it was. Everyone’s like, ‘That’s it? You just force-fed us on that last episode. He got a letter from the kids [and] he cried once and now he’s the Bachelor?’ Why is he more deserving than these other men?’ And I got that,” he recalled. “At the same time, though, my perspective was like, ‘Well I am a good guy.’ Do I think I deserve it more than these other dudes? Absolutely not. But again, that’s not my decision. I was just asked, so I just accepted it. But then I found out very quickly that people put me up here as far as what they wanted me to be or what they expected out of me.”
During his season of The Bachelor, Clayton came under fire from fans — and his finalists — when he “fell in love” with Rachel Recchia, Gabby Windey and Susie Evans. When Susie found out that he had slept with Rachel and Gabby, she told the Missouri native that she couldn’t move forward with the process.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, but it just goes to show you how off my thinking became as the Bachelor. I remember there was a point where I was looking at one of the women on a date and I was just, like, so happy. And I was like, ‘I don’t want this to end. … I want this experience to last forever,’” Clayton told Us. “Because I was like, ‘I want her to be in my life, but then I want her to be in my life. This is so incredible. I’ve never been happier. I’ve never felt so much love. I’ve never felt so valued.’ And then all of a sudden, like, the next thought came in like, ‘What are you thinking, dude? There’s three women here, you have to end this. This is not forever.’ And that’s when toward the end of the show, I freaked out and at one point I cried on camera, and I realized I’m gonna hurt someone. [But I’d] already taken it too far. I poured my entire heart into all this. … I’ve probably went farther than I should have, but I got lost in the moment.”
In the end, Gabby and Rachel agreed to forgive Clayton — until he realized he had the strongest feelings for Susie. The pilot and the nurse went on to be co-Bachelorettes for season 19 and Clayton and Susie dated for several months. They announced their split in September 2022.
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