The former GMTV weathergirl currently shares anchoring duty of the ITV1 panel show with new recruit Carol Vorderman. Speaking about her 15 years in the industry, McLean told The Mirror that she had come across "some pretty tough people".
"There's been bullying, back-stabbing, rumours, betrayals, all sorts - especially in my early days. And every time I've just walked away. I don't suppose it's just in TV, but I have heard a lot of bitching and nastiness in my time," she said. "And it's not just women either – the men in TV can be just as bad. At times it felt as if people just didn't want me to get ahead so they made things difficult.
"Every time, I just sort of accepted it and kept on working and trying my best. I've always hated confrontation and thought tackling it head-on would make things worse. But you know what, it probably wouldn't have mattered. I probably could have said my piece and it would have been fine."
Recalling how she had joined the lunchtime series 12 weeks after the birth of her daughter Amy, McLean said that she was "barely feeling human" at the time.
"And here I was, on the telly surrounded by these completely outspoken, opinionated women who just said whatever the hell they liked," she said. "I'd been brought up with the idea that you don't need to be the loudest in the room to be interesting.
"That you should be polite and nice to everyone, and keep things calm and pleasant, that you should avoid upsetting people at all costs. So that's what I did most of my life. But the girls on the show taught me that disagreeing with someone isn't the end of the world."
She continued: "I love the show and everyone has changed so much from day one. We've all really lived and been through some tough times together and apart. God knows how many marriages we've chalked up between us and none of us is perfect. That's what makes us an interesting mix and, of course, it means we don't always agree.
"But I've realised you can have a spat or an argument - and we do - but at the end of the day, everything is fine, nothing has changed, because all you have is an opinion, so it doesn't really matter. It doesn't change anything. We love each other."
The 41-year-old, currently working on her autobiography, added: "Being with the girls has been a fantastic lesson, and this recent experience with being so poorly has just made it so much clearer for me. I'm just going to do and say what I like from now on.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start being horrible to everyone. I've just let go of some of that anxiety about keeping everyone else happy before myself."
Loose Women continues weekdays at 12.30pm on ITV1.
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