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Lucky girl syndrome: the potential dark side of TikTok’s extreme positive thinking trend

A young woman sitting on a couch smiles while holding a mug.
‘Lucky girl syndrome’ is similar to the ‘law of attraction’. Ground Picture/ Shutterstock

If you’re looking for ways to bring more positive changes into your life, TikTok recommends jumping on the “lucky girl syndrome” trend. The hashtag links countless videos, all claiming this new form of positive thinking can help you achieve your goals.

If you haven’t already come across one of these videos, many of them involve young women declaring themselves to be “so lucky” – using affirmations such as: “I am so lucky, everything my heart desires will come to me.”

Many of the videos give examples of recent fortunate events that have occurred on the back of using these positive affirmations: they may have received an unexpected windfall of money, got a golden job opportunity or enjoyed the holiday of a lifetime. But while this trend may have started with the best of intentions, it could actually do more harm than good.

Lucky girl syndrome is just the latest interpretation of the “law of assumption”, which proposes that when we act as though what we want is already our reality – and believe it – then we are rewarded with the things we most desire in life.

The law of assumption is quite similar to the popular law of attraction“ which emphasises the power of thoughts and beliefs – so what you believe becomes your reality. So if I believe that I’m successful and behave as a successful person, then I will be successful.


Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

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This type of "you-are-what-you-think” ideology is very persuasive and popular because it’s reminiscent of ancient wisdom. For example, Stoic philosophy suggests that the way we think about our situation determines our psychological state, not the situation itself. But unlike lucky girl manifesting, stoic philosophy also advocated for recognising that sometimes things don’t go our way – and that this is an opportunity in itself to learn and grow.

Thinking your way to success sounds simple and its simplicity is appealing. But this is also the flaw of lucky girl syndrome. Although research has found that successful people do have a positive mindset, it’s not only their mindset that sets them apart.

For instance, a study of successful women leaders found they also work very hard, often sacrificing more pleasurable pastimes in favour of pursuing their goal. They also invest in relationships with others and prioritise learning and further education. So it isn’t just luck that gets them to where they are.

A wall of blue sticky notes with frowns on it. In the centre is an orange sticky note with a smiley face on it.
There may be some benefit to believeing you’re a ‘lucky girl’. ntkris/ Shutterstock

Yet on the other hand, research does show that believing you’re a lucky person is associated with a more positive state of mind and a greater tendency for seeking out opportunities. People who consider themselves lucky are more likely to approach new situations with confidence and a sense of control and optimism.

This study also suggested that this sense of being lucky promotes positive goal-oriented behaviour, such as a commitment to working towards your desired future.

Misplaced optimism

There is perhaps more of a dark side to lucky girl syndrome, which is hinted at in its name – seeing as it’s called a syndrome not an approach, and particularly because it’s aimed at women. Most videos on the topic talk purely of manifesting through thinking – there isn’t much emphasis on action.

They suggest that what you put out to the universe is what you will get in return. So if you think you’re poor or unsuccessful, this is what you’ll get back. Obviously this is quite an unhelpful message, which likely won’t do much for the self esteem of people who don’t feel particularly lucky – let alone those facing significant hardship.

Future daydreaming, fantasy and visualisation is a normal and healthy thing we all do. According to research, we think about our futures twice as much as we think about our past. Thinking about our future allows us to explore and visualise all sorts of possibilities, predict our future based on our past experiences and plan strategies to meet our goals.

No doubt we can all benefit from creating a more positive, healthy mindset that will help us create a better future for ourselves.

But instead of asking the universe for more wealth, success and power, perhaps we should ask for more compassion, kindness and support from ourselves and for each other. Focusing on these human qualities is associated with greater life satisfaction than striving purely for material gain.

Instead of “lucky girl syndrome”, if you want to change your mindset and be more positive, why not try loving kindness meditation.

This form of meditation encourages you to focus on compassion towards yourself, others and the world. Studies have found that engaging in compassion-focused meditation increases positive emotions, social connectedness and self awareness.

Studies have also found that connecting with others and sharing our hopes for the future can lead to better goal attainment and personal success. So instead of sitting alone manifesting, get out there and share your dreams with others.

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