Zayn Malik has been opening up about his various personal struggles in interviews to promote his new autobiography, Zayn, which came out on Tuesday (Nov. 1). In a new chat with the Evening Standard, the singer, 23, dug deep into the anxiety that has plagued him for much of his time in the spotlight — and which, he has realized, some people see as a character fault.
“Anxiety is something people don’t necessarily want to advertise because it’s seen, in a way, like a weakness,” he told the Standard. “For me to pretend that I didn’t have anxiety would be fake.” Those feelings came to head this summer when he was forced to pull out of the Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium in June, writing in the book that he “felt sick. I couldn’t breathe… the idea totally freaked me out and I was paralyzed with anxiety.” He also pulled out of a concert in Dubai in September, again citing his anxiety.
“I speak about it so that people understand that it doesn’t matter what level of success you have, where you’re from, who you are, what sex you are, what you do — you can still experience these things,” he said. “I want people to see the good side to me and, yeah, the emotional stress of maybe not fulfilling that is a lot sometimes.”
Despite word at the time, Malik says there was no breakdown or even a blowup that forced him to leave One Direction, but rather what he described as the grind of management’s sometimes overbearing hand. He describes packed, structured days that left him with no time to think and some oddly strict rules about tattoos. “It was just a continuous struggle because I was hurried into a situation that I didn’t necessarily want to be in,” he said. “Obviously I had to stop feeling like that. So one day I stopped being in the band.”
He went on to tell the paper about a perpetual fear of letting people down. “Sometimes things get in the way of us doing exactly what we want. I never meant to offend,” he said of anyone who was hurt by his 1D departure of the opportunities he’s missed because of his anxiety. “It’s an uncontrollable thing that I can’t do anything about… sometimes I won’t go heads in with something that could be really beneficial because I don’t feel comfortable.”
In the Standard interview, Zayn — who has also recently opened up about a struggle with an eating disorder — also contemplates what might have been had he not signed a record deal with One Direction at age 17. “I probably wouldn’t have — I would’ve waited a couple more extra years,” he said. “Just so I had that time to just get my head around being a famous person. I’ve never been able to have, what’s the word? Anonymity.”