Fear is a tricky human emotion. It can paralyze you. It can keep you from your dreams. It can keep you small.

It can also keep you safe.

Fear can be your friend in just the right doses, but too much of it can kill you.

Hence, fear is good for you. It is in our brain and biology to keep us safe from real danger. Fear is also our compass directing us forward. When we embrace fear and use it fuel it allows us to move forward through uncertainty where we can truly grow.

Fear can also be your greatest positive motivator. Sound crazy? It is not. Obviously, there are fears in our lives that stem from valid, dangerous origins — these are the fears that help keep us safe.

For instance, we may fear walking down a dark alley at night. Situations such as these can lead to some dire outcomes. While the probability may be low of anything occurring in that alley, this fear is a valid means of self-preservation.

On the other side of the spectrum are the irrational fears that can limit us in our daily lives and prevent us from reaching our potential. I know this all too well.

I struggled in school and it crushed my self-esteem. My struggle was not for lack of effort but some unknown force preventing me from reading and writing at the same pace as the other kids. I knew something was wrong. My learning difficulties landed me in the lowest reading group. I was removed from class and sequestered to read with the slow learners. Ouch!

I was aware of brands and labels but this one, I did not enjoy wearing around my neck. I struggled to read throughout elementary school. It was obvious to Mom that something was wrong. I could study 5 minutes before a test and score 100% (my memory), but then would get the same questions wrong on subsequent written assignments.

Writing a simple paragraph was torture as I consistently skipped and duplicated words. With my struggles, came a keen sense of how to cope. At the tender age of eight, my survival skills were already in tip-top shape. I earned a PhD in “street smarts”. I worked on my excuses for my bad grades in between marking periods. I had my eyes checked at least a half dozen times. In the interim, I learned to memorize words. I was a world-class professional fake reader. I had no idea what was wrong with me until my mother dragged me to the University of Maryland for some educational testing. It was there that I was diagnosed with dyslexia. It was a defining moment in my life and one that I will never forget.

There was little known about the cause(s) behind my learning and reading struggles back then that caused me so much heartache. Again, I was lucky because my Mom stepped in when no one else seemed to notice. Although not formally trained, she knew something was wrong and she became my advocate. With tutoring and a new outlook on my life, I was able to push forward and have a relatively successful academic career. I eventually attended Colgate University and graduated in four years. I do wonder about other dyslexic kids not as fortunate as I to have someone on advocating on their behalf.

Here are 5 simple ways that I was taught to conquer my fears so that you can keep moving forward:

1. Recognize It

In order to deal with your fears, you must be willing to recognize what they are. Write them down…

2. Own It

Be willing to admit to yourself what your fears are… No excuses, no rationalization…

3. Plan It Out

If you are going to make a conscious effort to deal with your fears to overcome them, it can help to have a plan.

4. Visualize Success

There has long been belief that visualization is a powerful technique for finding success.

5. Force Yourself to Do It

Sometimes the anticipation of something is far worse than doing the thing that is worrying you.

Keep in mind, life has not been easy, but someone struggling does not want easy, just possible. I am a survivor. Life has come full circle for me. At one point, I could not stand to read or write and now I earn a living doing both. My mother is no longer with me but there is not a day that I do not think about what she did to change my life.

Thanks Mom, I miss you!