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I come from a family of people with an overwhelming propensity for anxiety. They worry and fret, pace and fidget. I believe none of them are ever really shocked when bad things ultimately do happen.

Calling it anxiety makes it nicer, more socially acceptable. It is the most genteel of sins, as it seems focused on the parties we worry for and never about our own egos.

But what if we called it by its less acceptable, but far more accurate name? FEAR. A quick Google search of Webster’s online dictionary tells us fear is “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

When fear is warranted, it is valuable and can be life-saving. But when it’s the conditioned response to most stimuli, it paralyzes and keeps us “stuck,” afraid and often alone.

It’s an insidious thing; telling us we can’t do or be more, convincing us to stay where we are, not risking anything, maintaining the status quo. Oddly, it can be a message of comfort. We KNEW that path would take us nowhere good, so it’s best we stayed in place. We had a feeling that wouldn’t work out, so isn’t it better we didn’t act!

Fear makes us think it’s helping, all the while, robbing us of joy, adventure and opportunity.

So, what can we do?

Begin by determining why fear is present. Again, if there is a real and actual danger, listen and heed it’s warning appropriately. But, if you are fearful of failure or success or Tuesdays or embarrassment or whatever, try looking a little deeper. Why is fear knocking on your door? Rather than opening that door a crack and letting fear enter, why not choose a different option? Turn the lock, throw the bolt and lock fear out.

Next, find an action you can do, right now. Action takes control of fear and puts your thinking brain back in the driver’s seat. Perhaps you make a phone call, attack an item on your to do list or ask for additional information. Fear does some of its best work in a vacuum, so connect with someone who will help move you forward. Consider getting some assistance from a friend, colleague or partner. Have them remind you of a time when you succeeded, brainstorm some action steps or just enjoy a few moments of fun. Need something more—try giving your fear a little personality and tell it what it needs to know.  It doesn’t have to be elegant, just convincing… “I got this!” A little positive self-talk can go a long way in keeping fear in its place.

Fear can either be friend or foe.

It’s your choice.

Choose well.