55+ Quotes About Fear—of the Unknown, Change, Love, and More
Looking for a little confidence boost? These quotes about fear from some of literature’s greatest writers can help bolster your bravado.
January 4, 2021
In moments of fear, it’s natural to turn to others—from loved ones to professional counsel—for comfort, encouragement, and advice. But sometimes, it’s most helpful to hear what people you’ve never met have written on the topic. Carefully selected from fiction and nonfiction, these quotes offer a comprehensive, reassuring portrait of fear and ways to conquer it.
Quotes About the Nature of Fear
Fear is a universal human experience. And, like many human experiences, it’s both simple and complicated. These quotes capture the nature of fear in a few of its myriad forms.
1. “Fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.” — Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom
2. “There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.” — Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear
3. “I am afraid. Not of life, or death, or nothingness, but of wasting it as if I had never been.” — Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
4. “He thought with a kind of astonishment of the biological uselessness of pain and fear, the treachery of the human body which always freezes into inertia at exactly the moment when a special effort is needed.” — George Orwell, 1984
5. “Ignorance is the parent of fear.” — Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
6. "On the battlefield, in the torture chamber, on a sinking ship, the issues that you are fighting for are always forgotten, because the body swells up until it fills the universe, and even when you are not paralysed by fright or screaming with pain, life is a moment-to-moment struggle against hunger or cold or sleeplessness, against a sour stomach or an aching tooth." — George Orwell, 1984
7. “Eddie discovered one of his childhood's great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.” — Stephen King, It
8. “Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.” — Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code
9. "If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?” — George Orwell, 1984
Quotes About Facing and Overcoming Fear
Eager to let go of lingering anxieties? Want to move past whatever’s been holding you back? Full of wisdom and valuable advice, these quotes just might help you feel brave.
10. “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” — Frank Herbert, Dune
11. “Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.” — George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
12. “A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin
13. “If you try to get rid of fear and anger without knowing their meaning, they will grow stronger and return.” — Deepak Chopra, The Third Jesus
14. “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
15. “In time we hate that which we often fear.” — William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
16. “Fear... is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” — Yann Martel, Life of Pi
17. “Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren't.” — Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
18. “What I have since realized is that if people expect you to be brave, sometimes you pretend that you are, even when you are frightened down to your very bones. ” — Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons
Quotes About Fear of the Unknown
One of the most relatable and universal fears is that of the unknown. Writers throughout the ages have pondered why we fear uncertainty, what that fear means, and how we can learn from it. The following quotes meet those big questions and put them in perspective.
19. “People are supposed to fear the unknown, but ignorance is bliss when knowledge is so damn frightening.” — Laurell K. Hamilton, The Laughing Corpse
20. “It’s the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears. The spirits of the dead have nothing on it. The dead one tried to show me hell, but it was a pale imitation of the horror I can paint on the darkness in a quiet moment.” — Mark Lawrence, Prince of Thorns
21. “We meet fear...We greet the unexpected visitor and listen to what he has to tell us. When fear arrives, something is about to happen.” — Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom
22. "It is always easier to be afraid of something you cannot see.” — Neil Gaiman, Coraline
23. "The unknown awakens in us a reptilian dread that plays out with the same ferocity on scales personal, societal, and civilizational, whether triggered by a new life-chapter or a new political regime or a new world order." — Maria Popova, Figuring
24. "If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate." — George Orwell, 1984
25. “There are several ways to react to being lost. One is to panic... Another is to abandon yourself to lostness, to allow the fact that you've misplaced yourself to change the way you experience the world.” — Audrey Niffenegger, Her Fearful Symmetry
26. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” — H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature
27. “Look, everyone talks about the unknown like it's some big scary thing, but it's the familiar that's always bothered me. It's heavy, builds up around you like rocks, until it’s walls and a ceiling and a cell.” — V.E. Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows
28. "But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different—unimagined, unprepared for, unknown." — Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles
Quotes About Fear of Change
Change is an inescapable fact of life—and it can be a wonderful thing. Yet, most of us fear it. These quotes might just help you conquer that fear and embrace exciting new opportunities.
29. “Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” — Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
30. "So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future." — Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
31. “People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.” — Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
32. “The key to change is letting go of the fear.” — Pittacus Lore, The Power of Six
33. “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” — Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
34. “Some people will always fear change. But we can't indulge them.” — Veronica Roth, Allegiant
35. “How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” — Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow
36. “If I let myself really understand another person, I might be changed by that understanding. And we all fear change. So as I say, it is not an easy thing to permit oneself to understand an individual." — Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy
Quotes About Fear and Love
What’s scarier than putting your whole heart on the line? Since the beginning of time, writers have been fixated on the risks required for romance...and the rewards that lie on the other side, should you be brave enough. These quotes are sure to boost your confidence in matters of love.
37. “I had learned early to assume something dark and lethal hidden at the heart of anything I loved. When I couldn't find it, I responded, bewildered and wary, in the only way I knew how: by planting it there myself.” — Tana French, In the Woods
38. “I've spent most of my life and most of my friendships holding my breath and hoping that when people get close enough they won't leave, and fearing that it's a matter of time before they figure me out and go.” — Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
39. “Kindness eases change. Love quiets fear." — Octavia Butler, Parable of the Talents
40. “Usually adult males who are unable to make emotional connections with the women they chose to be intimate with are frozen in time, unable to allow themselves to love for fear that the loved one will abandon them.” — bell hooks, The Will to Change
41. “Love is scary! Taking a vow to love someone through sickness and health, for richer for poorer, forsaking all others, until death do us part, is the most terrifying experience a person can have. Why pretend any differently?” — Elin Hilderbrand, Beautiful Day
42. “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” — Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness
Quotes About Fear of Failure
Nothing holds people back quite like the notion that you might fail at whatever you try. But this fear is a particularly dangerous one, as it can impair your ability to achieve your dreams. These quotes provide a jolt that will encourage you to keep tackling your goals without fearing the outcome.
43. “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
44. “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life
45. "We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to." — Trevor Noah, Born a Crime
46. “Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming
47. “Sometimes, when we want something so badly, we fear failure more than we fear being without that thing.” — Matthew J. Kirby, Icefall
Inspirational Quotes About Fear
If your particular fear isn’t reflected in any of the scenarios above, you might just need a little motivation to help you cope with whatever life throws your way.
48. “Fear doesn't shut you down; it wakes you up.” — Veronica Roth, Divergent
49. “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” — Marcus Aurelius, Thoughts of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
50. “Don't be ashamed of being scared. To be afraid is a sign of common sense. Only complete idiots are not afraid of anything.” — Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Angel’s Game
51. “He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.” — Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, The Complete Essays of Montaigne
52. “Fear's useless. Either something bad happens or it doesn't: If it doesn't, you've wasted time being afraid, and if it does, you've wasted time that you could have spent sharpening your weapons.” — Sarah Rees Brennan, The Demon’s Lexicon
53. “A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.” — Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
54. “Yes to everything scary. Yes to everything that takes me out of my comfort zone. Yes to everything that feels like it might be crazy. Yes to everything that feels out of character. Yes to everything that feels goofy. Yes to everything. Everything. Say yes. Yes. Speak. Speak NOW. ‘Yes,’ I say. ‘Yes.’” — Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes
55. “Moderation? It's mediocrity, fear, and confusion in disguise. It's the devil's dilemma. It's neither doing nor not doing. It's the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It's for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation...is lukewarm tea, the devil's own brew.” — Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior