Episode 39: Paula McGuire

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

“We’re always thinking about the ladder, moving on and moving up the ladder, but we need to remember that sometimes its nice just to be on the ladder”

Today you will meet Paula McGuire, an incredible human who has experienced life-altering levels of anxiety for over 30 years.

Yet after decades of suffering with the condition, Paula has found a way to lead a life of adventure, far beyond the boundaries of her comfort zone.

Paula's backstory brings us into her childhood world; in which she was terrified of everything from swimming to meeting new people. She taught herself to avoid all triggering situations and her world became smaller; shaped around fear. Minute to minute she was clouded by anxious thoughts and physical tics, and bullied in school for standing out and being different. Surely life would improve at university, Paula thought? Instead it shrank even further, to an almost unbearable situation, where Paula was taking 30 pills every day to try and manage her anxiety, and could barely leave the house. At 30, she faced hospitalisation and, after so many years of struggle, couldn’t see any way out.

How does someone in this situation manage to transition into becoming a Ted-X speaker, radio presenter, adventurer and published author?

It is not a simple, linear story of struggles before 30 and finding a solution thereafter, but Paula did achieve an incredible mindset shift which she is still implementing on a daily basis. Taking up new activities and adventures - and the resulting confidence and self-belief - has played a central role in her progression to a fulfilled and active life today. She reframed terror to excitement and convinced herself that getting on stage was no more terrifying than everything else she was apprehensive of.

She brought her anxiety out into the light and talked about it.

She talked about it on the Ted-X stage – feeling jangly but still determined to speak. By learning to be ok with not being polished and perfect all of the time Paula is able to do so much more than she ever thought herself capable of.

So, since 2012, Paula has tried all 17 Commonwealth Games sports as a challenge, competed in triathlons, launched herself into skydives and learnt to swim for an around-Britain attempt. In our conversation we talked about:

What school life was life

• Paula's anxiety at its worst, and its symptoms

• Her daily practices and boundaries today

• Trying and failing at the around-Britain swim

• Mindset and public speaking

You can find the episode from Friday at 8am on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and all the usual app suspects. You can also check out Paula's book on my brand new reading page!

Please share this with anyone you know experiencing anxiety, and support me to keep going by giving a super-speedy five-star rating on iTunes.

Show notes

Paula’s website

Paula on Twitter


Paula’s book Must Try Harder: Adventures in Anxiety

Paula's Ted-X talk

National Deaf Children's Society

Anxiety UK

Guardian article on cold water therapy

Paula on Lessons in Badassery

Paula on BBC Radio Scotland

​Proudly created with Wix.com