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The Bachelor's Nick Viall Defends His Past: 'It's a Winless Battle to Try to Be Liked by All'

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Brian Doben

After near marriage proposals on two different seasons of The Bachelorette and a summer on Bachelor in Paradise, Nick Viall is probably the most controversial Bachelor the franchise has cast so far … so how does he feel about that label?

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE ahead of Monday’s season premiere of the hit dating competition series, Viall, 36, opens up about how starring in The Bachelor compares to his previous experiences on the show — and why he’s misunderstood.

While he knows some fans are skeptical of his track record, the Milwaukee native says he’s “not going to change who I am.”

“I’m fully aware of the overall perception of me,” he says. “I hope people like me. But that isn’t my goal going into this.”

For more on Nick and this season of The Bachelor, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Viall also drew fan ire for joining Kaitlyn Bristowe‘s season several episodes after it began (angering her other suitors in the process) — and he says he was “fully aware of what coming on late would do.”

“But I never came on the show to change anyone’s opinion,” he explains. “I was following my heart. And it’s important for people to know that I’m always going to be who I am, for better or worse.”

“It’s a winless battle to try to be liked by all.” he adds. “If you’re going to be interesting, you’re not going to be loved by everyone.”

But that being said, Viall still has his fair share of devoted fans who are all rooting for him to find happiness.

“I’m excited that people seem to really care what happens to me,” he says. “That’s very humbling. But I wasn’t trying to prove anything. If I was, I probably would have done things differently before and made life easier on myself! I want to give people what they want but not at the risk of making a poor decision.”

RELATED VIDEO: Nick Viall is Still Friends with Bachelor in Paradise Ex Jen Saviano

 

And as the Bachelor, things are even more intense.

“All eyes are on you,” he says. “It’s certainly nerve-racking. The process was as hard as I thought it would be — a lot of highs and lows.”

But at the end of the day, the reality star says he’s “ready to shed the controversial image.”

“I have an open mind going forward,” he adds. “And I’m ready to get married.”

The Bachelor premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

• With AURELIE CORINTHIOS