The Neuroscience Behind Lucky Girl Syndrome & Why It Might Actually Work

May 22, 2023

photo of girl in all shall be well cap

We’ve all seen “those influencers” on social media—the ones that land butter side up no matter what they do. They walk through life with an iced coffee in one hand and a four-leaf clover in another, attributing manifestation as the reason behind the successes in their lives. 

These influencers (predominantly young, single white cis-women) often offer advice on how to harness the power of lucky girl syndrome, with influencer @Lauren_Bulloch stating in her video, “If you revert back to the mantra of ‘I’m so lucky. Everything is always happening for me’ and that really gets a feeling of luck and excitement going within you, that changes your frequency right there. And if you can keep coming back to that throughout the day it will totally magnetize different things into your life.” Bulloch then goes on in her video to share how she manifested her dream apartment, over 100,000 followers on TikTok, a new friend group, a successful clothing business, and a coaching business—which all sounds great, in theory.

But is it actually true?

The Dark Side of “Lucky Girl Syndrome” 

If you ask Vox Magazine, lucky girl syndrome is delusional at best, and harmful at worst. Senior Correspondent Rebecca Jennings describes ‘lucky girl syndrome’ as nothing more than a rebranding of older law of attraction theories—from Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret to Christianity’s prosperity gospel. While on the positive side, lucky girl syndrome gives you the sense of security that you can actively control and radically change your life, on the negative side there’s the insidious assumption that if your life is in a rut, it’s your fault and you’re the only one to blame. 

That reverse side of lucky girl syndrome is especially damaging when considering the way systemic racism, economic disparity, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and more all drastically impact one’s ability to show up within a society—something no amount of lucky girl manifestation can set aside. If taken to an extreme, it can be believed that those who are struggling with systemic injustices deserve to struggle, and that their mindset is what’s holding them back, rather than broken systems and inequality.

It’s tempting, then—from that point of view—to throw out lucky girl syndrome altogether for fear of conflating success with mindset rather than luck, privilege, and hard work. 

The truth of the matter, however, is a bit more complicated. And it all stems back to a network of neurons within our bodies, adding a bit of neuroscience to the lucky girl syndrome debate.  

The RAS, Explained

Every second, your brain gets about 11 million pieces of information.

And, out of all that information, your brain can only process about 40 to 50 piece at a time. For context, that’s a retention rate of 0.00036%.

This is where the RAS, also known as the reticular activating system, comes into play. The RAS is a network of neurons in your brain that processes those 40–50 most relevant pieces of information every day. According to Coach Rachelle Indra, it may also be the neuroscience-based evidence behind why lucky girl syndrome can sometimes work.

Each morning, your subconscious tells the RAS what to focus on. When you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and expect it to be a bad day, the RAS finds those things to prove you right. All the sudden, you notice that the bus is late (even if it always is), that you’re out of peanut butter, and that your favorite shirt is in the laundry.

And, because your RAS is like a built-in ‘autopilot’ that turns conscious thoughts and actions into subconscious behavior, the more you believe your life is terrible, the more the RAS will find the 40–50 bits of information every second to prove that that’s true. 

Can Positive Thinking Actually Change Your Life?

That’s where a positive mindset comes into play.

By telling yourself that today is going to be a good day, you’re setting up your RAS to look for the good, for the beautiful, and for the joy. Day after day, month after month, you can reroute your neural pathways to focus on the positive. You’ll notice the beautiful field of dandelions right outside your house, the scent of a cup of Earl Grey tea, and the woman who moved so you could have a seat on the bus, instead of all the ways your day could be bad or upsetting. 

That’s not to say that there will never be a bad day or that positive thinking can actually manifest fame and fortune into your life. There will still be bad and uncontrollable moments in life, but a positive mindset can help.

So next time, before rolling your eyes at the latest ‘manifestation influencer’ on TikTok (as I, myself, am prone to do), consider giving it a try. Whether it’s saying “I am lucky,” “I am happy,” or even, “I am at peace,” repeat that and see what you start to notice.

You may realize your RAS is pointing you toward a brighter and happier tomorrow than you originally expected.

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Photo: Dana Drosdick

Dana Drosdick
Dana is a marketer living in Saratoga Springs, NY with a passion for all things related to stewardship, faith, wellness, and personal enrichment. Her work has been featured in various Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, The Odyssey Online, and The Banner Magazine. Follow her at @danadrosdick on Instagram for foodie trends, her latest book recommendations, and far too many photos of clementines.


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