Magical thinking suggests cosplaying as a sorceress in your bedroom is less embarrassing than sending someone a textHIPPOPX

When the Peter Pan play first premiered in 1904, a generation of English children were told they could fly – so long as they truly believed. Later that night, many bewitched boys and girls were to jump off their beds, only to crash to the ground; its author J.M. Barrie was obliged to add the crucial requirement of “fairy dust” to the practice of flight.

“This magical mindset comes in many names and forms, almost all directed towards girls”

Over a century later, children are not the only ones captivated by the promise of thinking things into being. More often than I find magic among dew drops and morning mists, I encounter it on my TikTok feed, as the algorithm transforms my 2am interests in positive thinking and dubious psychology hacks to a rabbit hole of magical thinking. Manifesting, the law of attraction, lucky girl syndrome – this magical mindset comes in many names and forms, almost all directed towards girls.

Such practices are not new. The 19th century introduced the “New Thought” movement, centred on a belief in a globally-shared divinity which dwells in all people. It described practices like “the law of attraction”, according to which the energy you give out attracts other energies of the same sort. This religious spiritualism has seen more secular reincarnations, as the 21st century seems to have embraced capitalist Karmic systems of spiritual success. Women-targeted media harboured the idea of a spiritual plane in which energies and auras interact, initiating and influencing events within the world of reality.

Vogue has been more than keen to teach girls how to “manifest anything you want” and positively think your way to success. Oprah’s enthusiastic promotion sold Rhonda Byrne’s pseudo-scientific self-help book “The Secret” more than 30 million times, which claimed positive energy can totally change your life. It’s no surprise that these ideas continue to gain more and more traction in social media, as social media itself encourages us to separate life into planes of semi-physical operations, and creates entire metaverses for its consumers to deal with personal communication, self-image crafting, and career prospects.

These beliefs may come from a place of goodwill, but they end up trapping us in mediums of passivity, and encourage a worrying detachment from the world. Their gendered aspect effectively herds women into a field of pretty, domestic thoughts.

“I don’t chase, I attract”, a popular TikTok affirmation, is a glossy way to put into words the life-changing decision to never work for anything. Much like Regency damsels waiting for their ball card to fill with invites, you too can spend your time in a corner at a safe distance from the action, sneaking dainty, blushing looks at your own fate.


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Of course, some things will end up coming your way, as is the way of the world. Providing you don’t commit completely to the lifestyle of a hermit, the loser “chasers” among us might even invite you to a party, or recruit you for a project. This, in turn, will make you feel valued and attractive; after all, it’s not a bad gig to feel something positive simply by sitting in your room, doing nothing of your own initiative.

To believe passivity is the path towards feminine success is, well, sexism. Sure, no one wants to look desperate, but branding women as desperate is a classic sexist tactic to demean those who are not afraid of failure or rejection along the way. Though desperation may not exactly be cute, there is really nothing more desperate than hiding from your goals from fear of seeming desperate.

This is not to take away from the power of a positive mindset. A positive outlook set on finding and engaging in positive patterns is the key to an active, happy and kind life. Choosing to see the good luck and beauty hidden under the mundane is precisely what should give you the time and energy to flourish. Fads like “lucky girl syndrome”, which suggests every win is the result of providence, can occasionally be useful mind hacks, tricks to play on your own brain – but the emphasis should remain on “moving forward” and acting on these premises.

Magical thinking trends are lying to you, as they’d have you believe that the endpoint of action is thought – and yet it never is. Some methods reach even greater levels of delusion, viewing discreteness in the real world as their ultimate goal: the “whisper method”, for instance, offers you thought exercises to make a guy text you first. This suggests that cosplaying as a sorceress in your bedroom is less embarrassing than sending a text.

Believing your power lies in your passivity means that your power is determined entirely by the actions of others, and that doesn’t just strip you of your own agency: it places the blame of other people’s actions on the brightness and spark-factor of your aura. Feminine passivity camouflaged as spiritual activity is just another way to assign social and emotional responsibilities to women.

It is no wonder that Google searches for “manifesting” rocketed during the pandemic, as people were quite literally confined to the realm of positive thinking. But your everyday thought process should not be built on the same foundation as the emergency escapist mindset of a global pandemic. To manifest is to operate within the world of wishing. Instead of getting things done, you waste your time tidying your stars into neat but ultimately meaningless alignment. The association of women with magic has historically served abuse and discrimination, and though it may seem tempting to reclaim its aesthetics, it is crucial to remember that assigning yourself power in the metaverse of thought is to remove yourself from the real world of action.