Zayn Malik and Harry Styles’ One Direction Experience

Zayn Malik did not dish on One Direction, Harry Styles or Perrie Edwards in his autobiography, Zayn. Malik certainly didn’t “slam” anyone. Instead, Zayn is about how the young musician felt, about the road, his life, his health, his family and his hometown of Bradford.

Zayn Malik’s autobiography is about growing up very suddenly, and how that feels to a shy, sensitive young man with a built-in bad boy image. How did the former One Direction singer’s tough exterior grow up so differently than his inner life? Zayn is a must read for anyone who might be struggling within themselves.

Did One Direction’s Harry Styles struggle with the same issues? Apparently not, though it is hard to imagine it was easy for any of the One Direction boys. Being on the road is hard for anyone, but for teens like Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan to be that in demand, being away from their families and having virtually no free time. It must have been rough.

One Direction was the chance of a lifetime for Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson. Still, even the X-Factor audition was a tremendous challenge, especially for Z.

Few would guess Zayn Malik had never even sung in front of his parents prior to his audition. Z sang in his bedroom, sometimes recording himself but Z had never sung in front of an audience of any type until he went to audition.

While One Direction’s Harry Styles was probably up at dawn, before his X-Factor audition, Zayn Malik explains in Zayn, he didn’t want to get out of bed that day. Malik’s mom actually had trouble getting Z up.

“I always tell the story as if I was just being lazy, but actually I know deep down I was grappling with crippling nerves. That’s something I have always struggled with. I was never that overconfident, performing kid who wants to sing for everyone.”

One Direction's Harry Styles
One Direction's Harry Styles has been compaired to Mick Jagger but also Paul McCartney [Image by Christopher Polk/Getty Images]

Harry Styles rapidly became that kind of performing kid, if he wasn’t before. Harry Styles adored being on stage with One Direction, perhaps as much as Zayn Malik was anxious about it. The One Direction stage was totally different for Harry Styles than it was for Zayn Malik.

Harry Styles performed with the band White Eskimo before X-Factor placed him in One Direction. Zayn Malik had never sung outside his bedroom before. It was an extreme culture shock for Malik, but Styles took it in stride.

Harry Styles told People being on stage with One Direction was better than drugs for him.

“Playing these big venues when you just see a sea of people, that view … You stop for a second and wish you could bring all your friends to just stand there with you for a second and see it. It’s unlike anything else. There’s no drug you can take that gives you that same high. It’s pretty amazing that it’s a natural thing.”

One Direction offered many new experiences for Zayn Malik. Z took his first plane ride with One Direction. Z played his first stadium with Harry Styles by his side, but the experience was so different for Harry Styles than Z.

Zayn Malik tried hard to tough it out for the sake of One Direction bandmates and fans. Malik did his best to deal with his overwhelming social anxiety, stage fright, and eating disorder, but after five years on the road, Malik just could not cope. An overwhelming desire to just go home overrode his tenacity in the end.

Zayn Malik and John Lennon
Zayn Malik and John Lennon [Image by Star Max 2 AP Images and Hulton Archive Getty Images]

Zayn Malik explained in Zayn that it was actually on the stage that he realized he had to go home. Z had missed a few One Direction shows due to anxiety. Z couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and his health was truly failing. Radio quotes Zayn.

“The workload and the pace of life on the road put together with the pressures and strains of everything going on within the band had badly affected my eating habits.”

Zayn Malik was not conscious of his extreme weight loss during his last tour with One Direction, except in hindsight. Malik was in denial about his condition at the time, but he knew something wasn’t right. Z was beyond exhausted.

Harry Styles is a natural born performer. Harry loves the stage, the lights, and masses of people. Zayn Malik loves the people too, and Z says he missed the fans when he returned home. There were girls Z knew by name and he thought of fans often, but somehow, stage performance was frightening, even though he loved the people.


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Zayn Malik is a young man of meager beginnings who had a life changing opportunity in One Direction, but after five years found himself unable to continue. Now Z faces the same challenges with his own solo tours, but Malik has a plan now.

“The idea of it [big solo gigs] totally freaked me out and I was paralyzed with anxiety. The plan is to start performing smaller venues and work my way up from there. This anxiety isn’t going to get the better of me.”

One Direction fame was a huge change for both Harry Styles and Zayn Malik. Neither could have known how it would feel to stand on a stadium stage and look into the sea of faces in a packed house. It turns out that Harry Styles loves huge crowds of people watching him, but it was overwhelming for Z.

If One Direction’s Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson embark on their own solo tours, how different will it be for them, compared to being on stage together with One Direction?

As Zayn Malik deals with his serious anxiety issues, it is clear from his solo tour that he’s still not eating and still losing a lot of weight on tour. Hopefully, his plan to do some smaller shows will help him adjust gradually to larger venues.

One Direction’s Harry Styles and Zayn Malik experienced the same stage very differently, so how do you think you would react?

[Featured Image by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images]