New Bachelor Colton Underwood promises he'll be more vulnerable than ever during his season

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He’s no stranger to looking for love on reality television, but this time, Colton Underwood is more vulnerable than ever.

“For a long time I was just a football player, but I want people to see me for who I am,” says Underwood, whose new season of The Bachelor premieres Jan. 7 on ABC. “I’m not this perfect dude. I have mistakes and I have flaws but I’m going to grow and get better from it.”

The 26-year-old former professional football player vied for love on Becca Kufrin’s season of The Bachelorette; following their breakup, he headed to Bachelor in Paradise where he reconciled, then split up from, his on and off again girlfriend Tia Booth.

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Credit: Francesco Secci

“I consider them friends now,” says Underwood of his exes. “They’re supportive of me, and they’re happy.”

Watch the full episode of People Features – The Bachelor: Colton Underwood streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

And though he didn’t find lasting romance on Paradise, Underwood says did learn a valuable lesson.

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Credit: ABC
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Credit: Paul Hebert/ABC via Getty

“Throughout my football career, I’ve always been somebody who’s been very aware and I know when the camera is on me and I know how to be polished,” Underwood admits. “I can see how that might come off as disingenuous. So for the first time, it was like this is really me.”

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The cover of PEOPLE

For the full story on Bachelor Colton Underwood, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

Now, Underwood says viewers will see this no-holds-barred Colton on the show.

“I’m undeniably myself, and I think realizing that is the way to live life,” he says. “I may be goofy, I may be corny and I may be cheesy, but I’m me.”

The Bachelor premieres Monday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. on ABC.