Ask Ann Cannon: How do I conquer my fear of failure?

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • I’ve always had a fear of failing! I get easily overwhelmed when I can’t understand or figure something out and have no one to turn to or anyone in the family who can relate. Anything that challenges me freaks me out. What can I do to overcome this?


Dear Hesitant • This is a BIG question — too big for a column like this. Google the phrase “How can I stop being afraid of failing” and you’ll see that entire books have been written on the subject. Check some of them out: I’m confident you’ll find some ideas that are both useful and practical.

Let me, however, make a few quick observations here.

  • YOU’RE NOT ALONE! Seriously, nobody likes to fail.

  • And yet everybody fails. Ask that baby who’s trying to take her first step about falling down. (Except she can’t answer because ... baby.)

  • So, yeah. Failing — for want of a better term — is just a natural part of life.

  • It’s possible to learn from failure, however, as uncomfortable and hard as failure can be.

  • Yes! I know this from direct personal experience!

  • In fact, I’ve often learned more from my failures than I’ve learned from my successes.

  • And one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that people can and do move on — especially if they treat themselves with a little bit of kindness during dark times.

  • In fact, people move on all the time and even find joy in the journey.

  • So, go ahead and put yourself out there.

  • You owe it to yourself.

One last thought here. Have you ever asked yourself why you’re afraid to fail? Could it be that you have some perfectionistic tendencies? Ugh. Perfectionism. It just gets in the way of so many things. If this is part of the problem for you (and I’m not saying it is), remind yourself of the old saying that “perfect is the enemy of good.” What does this mean? It means that sometimes we won’t recognize or invite a perfectly good thing into our lives because — you know — it’s not a perfect thing. And that’s the real shame.

I hope this helps — a little bit at least. Good luck!

Dear Ann Cannon • Our next door neighbor practically lives in his front yard. He wants to talk every time we leave the house. While we want to be friendly, we can’t always engage in a half-hour conversation, and we don’t have a garage or a way to get to the car without going past him. At this point, we practically dread going to the grocery store. Thoughts?

Desperate to Make a Quick Getaway

Dear Desperate • Well, it’s definitely no fun to feel like you’re being held hostage in your own home, right? So here are two options.

1. Buy a new house.


2. Smile and wave hello/goodbye when you see your neighbor. Then just keep moving if you don’t have the time to chat. This may feel rude to you, but my guess is (based on the information you’ve provided here) that your neighbor isn’t too savvy about picking up on social cues, so it may not even feel particularly rude to him.

Oh, human beings! Keeping it complicated since the beginning of time!

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.