109 Stoic Quotes About Fear

Updated November 8, 2022

Whether you're terrified of death or afraid of spiders, fear is something that can completely rule our lives if we let it. These 109 Stoic quotes about fear help us get some perspective and remember that we are in control of our own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs.

The Stoics are always here to remind us that we often "suffer more from imagination than reality." This collection of quotes can help you overcome whatever fear has a grasp on your mind at the moment.

Stoic Quotes About Fear

Many of the things that we are afraid of never actually come to pass. Fear of what will or won't happen can keep us from fully engaging with life, and the Stoics understood that overcoming fear unlocks a person's ability to strive for a life with good flow.

Marcus Aurelius Quotes About Fear

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius is quick to remind himself (and, thanks to the publication of this journal, the rest of us) that we should place our focus on the things we can control. If we are afraid of the future, we are worrying about something that isn't in our control.

marcus aurelius image and quote about anxiety

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Seneca the Younger on Fear

In one of his letters, Seneca the Younger tells his young friend "not to be unhappy before the crisis comes... some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all."

He goes on to say that "we are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow."

Ain't it the truth? We can burn a lot of energy worrying about the wrong things, and we can create more trouble for ourselves by focusing on our fears.

seneca image and quote about fear

“Our fears are always more numerous than our dangers.”

– Seneca the Younger

“If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.”

– Seneca the Younger

“Courage leads to heaven; fear leads to death.”

– Seneca the Younger

“Ignorance is the cause of fear.”

– Seneca the Younger

"The mind that is anxious about future events is miserable."

– Seneca the Younger

"He is a king who fears nothing, he is a king who desires nothing!"

– Seneca the Younger

"A person's fears are lighter when the danger is at hand."

– Seneca the Younger

"He who fears from near at hand often fears less."

– Seneca the Younger

"If you will fear nothing, think that all things are to be feared."

– Seneca the Younger

"It’s ruinous for the soul to be anxious about the future and miserable in advance of misery, engulfed by anxiety that the things it desires might remain it’s own until the very end. For such a soul will never be at rest— by longing for things to come it will lose the ability to enjoy present things.”

– Seneca the Younger

“True happiness is to enjoy the present without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied, for he that is wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not”

– Seneca the Younger

“It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering?…Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things.”

– Seneca the Younger

“For the only safe harbour in this life’s tossing, troubled sea is to refuse to be bothered about what the future will bring and to stand ready and confident, squaring the breast to take without skulking or flinching whatever fortune hurls at us.”

– Seneca the Younger

"We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality."

– Seneca the Younger

"But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future."

– Seneca the Younger

“The mind at times fashions for itself false shapes of evil when there are no signs that point to any evil; it twists into the worst construction some word of doubtful meaning; or it fancies some personal grudge to be more serious than it really is, considering not how angry the enemy is, but to what lengths he may go if he is angry. But life is not worth living, and there is no limit to our sorrows, if we indulge our fears to the greatest possible extent; in this matter, let prudence help you, and contemn with a resolute spirit even when it is in plain sight. If you cannot do this, counter one weakness with another, and temper your fear with hope.”

– Seneca the Younger

Epictetus on Fear

If you can take the advice of Epictetus to heart, you'll likely find that you spend a lot less time worrying about things you're afraid of.

"When I see an anxious person, I ask myself, what do they want? For if a person wasn’t wanting something outside of their own control, why would they be stricken by anxiety?"

— Epictetus

"Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems."

— Epictetus

"What upsets people is not things themselves, but their judgments about these things."

— Epictetus

Other Stoic Quotes About Fear

Many great thinkers have been influenced by the Stoics or come to similar realizations as the Stoics on their own. Let's consult with some Stoic-minded thinkers about fear.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

– George Lucas

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality.”

– Henry David Thoreau

“Success is as dangerous as failure. Hope is as hollow as fear.”

– Laozi

‘Those who act with few desires are calm, without worry or fear.”

– Gautama Buddha

“People die of fright and live of confidence.”

– Henry David Thoreau

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

– Mark Twain

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”

– Gautama Buddha

“Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”

– Henry David Thoreau

“Each man is afraid of his neighbor's disapproval - a thing which, to the general run of the human race, is more dreaded than wolves and death.”

– Mark Twain

“There is not a truth existing which I fear... or would wish unknown to the whole world.”

– Thomas Jefferson

“A decision made from fear is always the wrong decision.”

– Tony Robbins

“From craving arises sorrow, from craving arises fear, but he who is freed from craving has no sorrow and certainly no fear.”

– Gautama Buddha

Quotes About Anxiety

It's estimated that about 31% of American adults experience an anxiety disorder "at some time in their lives." Anxiety isn't a new phenomenon, though, and the Stoics and other great thinkers have some words that might help soothe your worries.

seneca image and quote about fear and happiness

“Where fear is, happiness is not.”

– Seneca the Younger

“Do not disturb yourself by picturing your life as a whole; do not assemble in your mind the many and varied troubles which have come to you in the past and will come again in the future, but ask yourself with regard to every present difficulty: 'What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?'”

– Marcus Aurelius

“How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.”

– Thomas Jefferson

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”

– Khalil Gibran

“No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.”

– Alan Watts

“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world - not even our troubles.”

– Charlie Chaplin

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

– Hermann Hesse

“I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

– Mark Twain

“He who fears he will suffer, already suffers from his fear.”

– Michel de Montaigne

“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.”

– Plato

Stoic Quotes About Worry

Marcus Aurelius and some other great thinkers can help you transition away from being a worry-wart to being focused on the present and what you can control.

“I am an old man and have had many worries, but most have never come to pass.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.”

– William Ralph Inge

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”

– Benjamin Franklin

“Worry… is rust upon the blade.”

– Simon Hughes

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”

– Michel de Montaigne

Quotes About How to Overcome Fear

Looking for advice on how to deal with fear when it plagues you? Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, Mark Twain, Emerson, and more have some sound words to help you out.

epictetus image and quote about control and fear

"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens."

— Epictetus

"Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: " Is this the condition that I feared?"

– Seneca the Younger

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself with are externals, not under my control, and which have to do with the choice I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.”

— Epictetus

"Don’t let your reflection on the whole sweep of life crush you. Don’t fill your mind with all the bad things that might still happen. Stay focused on the present situation and ask yourself why it’s so unbearable and can’t be survived."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Leave the past behind, let the grand design take care of the future, and instead only rightly guide the present to reverence and justice. Reverence so that you’ll love what you’ve been allotted, for nature brought you both to each other. Justice so that you’ll speak the truth freely and without evasion, and so that you’ll act only as the law and value of things require.”

— Marcus Aurelius

“Frame your thoughts like this— you are an old person, you won’t let yourself be enslaved by this any longer, no longer pulled like a puppet by every impulse, and you’ll stop complaining about your present fortune or dreading the future.”

— Marcus Aurelius

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”

– Mark Twain

“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to 'mean' horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.”

– Tony Robbins

“Let fear be a counselor and not a jailer.”

– Tony Robbins

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fear is a habit, so is self pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation. You can eliminate all of these negative habits with two simple resolves: I can and I will.”

– Napoleon Hill

“Do what you fear and your fear will die.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don't waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stoic Quotes About Focusing on the Present

When we are consumed by fear, we're usually everywhere but the present moment.

“Give yourself a gift: the present moment.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Past and future have no power over you. Just the present - and even that can be minimized.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Remember that man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant; all the rest of his life is either past and gone, or not yet revealed.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Remember that even if you were to live for three thousand years, or thirty thousand, you could not lose any other life than the one you have, and there will be no other life after it. So the longest and the shortest lives are the same. The present moment is shared by all living creatures, but the time that is past is gone forever. No one can lose the past or the future, for if they don't belong to you, how can they be taken from you?”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Deem not life a thing of consequence. For look at the yawning void of the future, and at that other limitless space, the past.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“No one can lose either the past or the future - how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? ... It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Quotes About Controlling Your Mind

You can radically change your entire life by adopting the Stoic notion that your mind is one of the few things you have control over. If you're overcome by fear, remember that your fear is internal and not external. This means that you have the power to rid yourself of the feeling of being afraid.

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully, to look round cheerfully, and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you soon feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can. So to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all our will to that end, and a courage-fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.”

– William James

“The components of anxiety, stress, fear, and anger do not exist independently of you in the world. They simply do not exist in the physical world, even though we talk about them as if they do.”

– Wayne Dyer

“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”

– William James

“You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn't exist anywhere except in the mind.”

– Dale Carnegie

“Much of what we call evil is due entirely to the way men take the phenomenon. It can so often be converted into a bracing and tonic good by a simple change of the sufferer's inner attitude from one of fear to one of fight; its string can so often depart and turn into a relish when, after vainly seeking to shun it, we agree to face about and bear it.”

– William James

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

– Bertrand Russell

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

– William James

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering oneself makes you fearless.”

– Laozi

“The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.”

– William James

Stoic Quotes About the Fear of Living

Fear can keep us from getting everything we can out of life. Sure, you might be safer if you never leave your room, but you'll also be shielding yourself from the best things that life has to offer.

“If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been.”

– Robert H. Schuller

“The worst of all fears is the fear of living.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”

– Dale Carnegie

“People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them.”

– George Bernard Shaw

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We seldom see anybody who is not uneasy or afraid to live.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quotes About the Fear of Death

One could argue that the fear of death underlies most of our other fears-- whether we are afraid of flying, afraid of elevators, afraid of spiders, afraid of the number thirteen, or afraid of never finding our soulmate.

The Stoics had a lot to say about the fear of death and even made it a practice to meditate on their inevitable death. This might sound morbid at first, but it's actually a natural and healthy practice. After all, when you don't avoid thinking about the fact that you are going to die, it can help you realize that death is something outside of your control.

Instead of being afraid of death, you can focus on the things you can control-- namely, your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, actions, and reactions.

seneca image and quote about fear of death

"A man afraid of death will never play the part of a live man."

– Seneca the Younger

"I cannot escape death, but at least I can escape the fear of it."

– Epictetus

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Be content with what you are, and wish not change; nor dread your last day, nor long for it.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“He who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or a different kind of sensation. But if thou shalt have no sensation, neither wilt thou feel any harm; and if thou shalt acquire another kind of sensation, thou wilt be a different kind of living being and thou wilt not cease to live.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Do not fear death, but welcome it, since it too comes from nature. For just as we are young and grow old, and flourish and reach maturity, have teeth and a beard and grey hairs, conceive, become pregnant, and bring forth new life, and all the other natural processes that follow the seasons of our existence, so also do we have death. A thoughtful person will never take death lightly, impatiently, or scornfully, but will wait for it as one of life's natural processes.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Why do you hunger for length of days? The point of life is to follow reason and the divine spirit and to accept whatever nature sends you. To live in this way is not to fear death, but to hold it in contempt. Death is only a thing of terror for those unable to live in the present. Pass on your way, then, with a smiling face, under the smile of him who bids you go.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Death: There's nothing bad about it at all except the thing that comes before it-the fear of it."

– Seneca the Younger

"That day which you fear as being the end of all things is the birthday of your eternity."

– Seneca the Younger

"Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardship of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die."

– Seneca the Younger

"Refuse to let the thought of death bother you: nothing is grim when we have escaped that fear."

– Seneca the Younger

“Imagine you were now dead, or had not lived before his moment. Now view the rest of your life as a bonus.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

– Mark Twain

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

– Mark Twain

Stoic Quotes About Dealing With Adversity

Sometimes, our fears are actually based on reality. When dealing with a difficult situation, Stoicism can help you keep a level head and find the gold hidden in adversity.

If you're dealing with hard times, it might not sound like useful advice to hear that there is a silver lining. The truth is, though, that these are often the experiences that give us the opportunity to turn inward, focus on ourselves, realize our inner strength, and exercise our values.

"I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you."

– Seneca

“The only way out is through.”

– Robert Frost

“A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.”

– Desmond Tutu

“When you look fear in the face, you are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Are you searching for more wisdom from the ancient Stoics and other great thinkers to help you on your path to the good life? If so, check out our blog full of Stoic quotes on topics as varied as life, death, anxiety, adversity, and happiness.

Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website provides the best stoic quotations on the topics of life, death, control, anxiety, and wisdom in general.

Memento Mori.
Copyright © 2022 - StoicQuotes.com
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram