Is “lucky girl syndrome” just an example of toxic positivity? Yes and no. The idea that we can manifest more luck simply by believing we are lucky is much easier for people who are privileged and those who don’t struggle with mental health. And yet, there is science behind the idea that we often find more of what we look for. Let’s explore some of the nuance behind this viral phenomenon and see if it can help you have more luck.
What is “Lucky Girl Syndrome?”
“Lucky girl syndrome” is the idea that you can manifest more luck by believing that you’re lucky. Rather than an actual syndrome, it’s one of the many TikTok manifestation trends that went viral this year. “Lucky girl syndrome” is usually practiced by reciting affirmations centered on luck such as, “Everything is always working out for me.”
Even though it seems simple, trying to convince yourself that you’re lucky can be out of reach when you struggle with mental health symptoms such as persistent negative thoughts or feelings of hopelessness. And even if you don’t experience mental health symptoms, “lucky girl syndrome” can be unhealthy if it causes you to invalidate or feel ashamed of your struggles and painful emotions. That’s when the search for positivity can become toxic.
Toxic positivity is the idea that we should have a positive mindset rather than validate or experience our struggles and emotions. It can be a form of denial or suppression that ultimately harms our mental health and impairs our ability to be compassionate toward those who are suffering. Rather than having empathy, we can start to blame people for their unfortunate or unfair circumstances by believing that they attracted “bad luck.”
How “Lucky Girl Syndrome” Promotes Victim Blaming
The truth is that “lucky girl syndrome” may be an easier ideology to subscribe to for those who don’t face systemic barriers in society. We might even ask, is “lucky girl syndrome” a technique or merely an unconscious observation of privilege dynamics already at play? Rather than luck by chance, it may simply reflect unearned advantages.
The fundamental attribution error is our tendency to attribute our own behavior to external factors while attributing others’ behavior to their intrinsic character qualities and choices. This can look like excusing or overlooking your own misfortunes as having direct environmental causes (“the train made me late”) while pointing fingers at others for theirs (“they simply have poor time-management”). In the case of “lucky girl syndrome,” this attribution error makes it easy to believe that others are unlucky because they do not believe enough in themselves or practice manifestation methods like “lucky girl syndrome” sufficiently.
There is no denying that many of the social media influencers who promote “lucky girl syndrome” are young, white, affluent, attractive women and it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes it’s just privilege disguised as luck. In other words, it’s important to be sensitive to how we package “lucky girl syndrome.” It can be fun to believe we are lucky and to look for luck throughout the day as long as it isn’t portrayed as a skill that indicates superiority or blames people for their unfortunate or unfair circumstances. After all, serendipity and good fortune can be profound sources of joy that everyone should have access to.
Let’s look at the science behind luck and see if it’s possible to cultivate it in healthy ways.
The Science Behind Finding Good Luck
The Reticular Activating System (RAS)—a bundle of nerves in our brainstem—filters information around us depending on what we think is important and what will help us survive. It involves selective attention and confirmation bias.
Selective attention is the process of focusing on one thing in our environment while ignoring irrelevant information. For example, you might notice more lucky circumstances when you look for luck.
Confirmation bias is our tendency to favor information that confirms our existing beliefs. For example, if you believe you’re lucky (or unlucky), you will unconsciously look for evidence that supports this belief.
Unfortunately, since we have a natural negativity bias that makes us attend to potential threats, we often overlook the positive. This is where “lucky girl syndrome” can be beneficial; it makes us see potential opportunities and possibilities that are right in front of us so we can act on them.
Our belief in luck can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Another word for this phenomenon is the expectancy effect, which is when our expectations unconsciously affect our results. For example, if you expect to succeed at something, you’ll unknowingly change your behaviors to get the outcome you expected.
So, how can we use the science of cultivating luck to intentionally change our behaviors and get the outcomes we want?
Five Healthy Ways to Cultivate Good Luck
While we don’t want to overlook the role of privilege in luck, we can still have some influence over cultivating it while keeping our integrity intact. Here are five healthy ways to create more good luck.
1. Intend to Find Good Luck
At the beginning of each day, set the intention to look for good luck no matter how big or small. This can help you turn down the volume of your negativity bias and allow you to notice the good.
2. Be Ready for Luck to Arrive
This might include dressing in ways that make you feel confident in case you run into someone you might want to date or improving your skills so you’re ready to handle bigger career opportunities.
3. Take Action
Don’t just wait for something to happen; get out there and make yourself available for new opportunities.
4. Don’t Be a Stranger
Use any social networks you have to amplify your visibility and don’t be afraid to ask people for help if you’re actively trying to manifest something.
5. Track Your Luck
Write down 1-3 small things that went well at the end of each day. While some of these things might not be do to chance, this practice will help you start noticing when things do work out in your favor.
To make sure we all benefit from practices like “lucky girl syndrome,” remember to invite nuance and trauma sensitivity to manifestation conversations. And, if you’ve been harmed by manifestation teachings, check out my Healing from Negative Manifestation Experiences course.
I’d love to hear from you: Do you think viral trends like “lucky girl syndrome” are toxic?