Is there an idiom, proverb or expression in English describing a situation in which a person is trying really hard to avoid misfortune (by taking precautions) but what exactly he`s trying to distance himself/herself from, eventually gets him/her (befalls him/her)?

"You can`t run away from your destiny" is too broad to convey the same idea expressed in my question. It is more specific and describes a situation in which a person is cautious, thus trying to prevent himself from getting in trouble but in spite of everything, what a person has been afraid for a long time finally gets him.

  • Are you thinking of a situation where the efforts to escape the misfortune somehow bring it about (you're worried about drowning in a flood so you build a water-tight house, but then your bathtub overflows and you drown when the sealed-tight house fills up with water), or more where the efforts just don't work (your water-tight house is no use, because you're caught in a flood on your way to work)?
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 21:57
  • @1006a It is partly an ironic situation due to the fact that, what you have been trying to defend yourself against, it happened anyway. Like, one is worried about drowning in a flood so he`s trying to avoid places where his fears can be materialized, but eventually he goes somewhere on vacation and drowns there in a flood.
    – Beqa
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 4:58

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure if these phrases are exactly what you want, but these are what I can suggest:

  • backfire: (of a plan) to have the opposite result from the one you intended
  • You can't cheat fate.
  • If something can go wrong, it will. (Murphy's law)
  • A bad penny always turns up. (This proverb refers to the recurrence of any unwanted event. It means someone or something that is unpleasant or unwanted, will always return or appear.)
  • what you fear will come to pass. ("Come to pass" means "to take place")

You might be able to express your thought with the word irony.

Irony is used to describe a situation in which something you would expect to be less likely to happen because of the circumstance, has in fact happened.

For example, Chancellor Palpatine said “Ironic: [Palpatine’d master] could save others from death but not himself.”

This is ironic because you would expect the master to be able to save himself from death because of his skills, but in fact it has happened that the master died.

  • 2
    That is not irony. It would be irony only if avoiding the result caused the result. That's not the case in OP's question, as it's perfectly possible for the result to be inevitable regardless of trying to avoid it. Palpatine's quote is also not ironic, as saving others did not cause his master's inability to save himself. It would be ironic only if someone he saved ends up killing him, but that is not clearly the case, based on the quote you posted.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 6:41
  • I think the OP MIGHT be saying that the avoiding causes the result, but it's hard to know for sure.
    – Ringo
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 19:08

There are a few expressions that come to mind:

What you resist persists.

This is a paraphrasing of Carl Jung, who suggested that the more you fight something handed to you in life, the larger it grows in your mind.

You can't escape your fate.

"Escaping your fate" is a futile attempt to run away from what is supposed to happen to you. Generally speaking, people aren't allowed to escape their destiny or lot in life.

You can't delay the inevitable.

"Delaying the inevitable" or "fighting the inevitable" are common ways of saying that you are trying to hold off something that will definitely happen in the future. For example, an old person who tries really hard to look youthful is just "delaying the inevitable."

Self-fulfilling prophecy

This is something you believe (or disbelieve) so much that somehow it becomes true. For example, a person who believes that his significant other is cheating on him might subconsciously do things that eventually cause her to leave him.


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