Or maybe both.
My name is Beth, and I confess: The words of Laura Galebe, the influencer credited with kicking off the TikTok trend in December 2022, have stuck with me.
In case the video has not forced its way into your TikTok “For You” page, or you don’t even know that there are “For You” pages, here’s how it goes down: Galebe looks her 170,000-plus followers in the camera’s eye and says, “You’re going to listen to what I’m about to say because this is going to change your #$% life.
“Ever since I can remember,” she says, “I’ve always made it a point to tell everyone, ‘I am so lucky. I just always expect great things to happen to me and so they do.’ ”
It’s just the kind of cheery, haughty nonsense that usually uncorks my vast reserve of cynical skepticism. But videos with the Lucky Girl Syndrome hashtag have been viewed nearly 300 million times on TikTok — and the craze has spawned Lucky Girl hoodies and candles and affirmation mirror decals — so who am I to question?
And in truth, proclaiming good luck seemed easier than, oh, I don’t know, working for it, as I’ve been doing only my entire adult life. I called a woman who has been one of my best friends since eighth grade. I’d describe us as optimists who also enjoy a good rant about life’s disappointments.
“How are you?” she asked. “I’m good,” I answered. “I just always expect great things to happen to me and so they do.’”
“What???” she yelled. Who was this imposter changing the basis of our entire relationship?
If you’re not on TikTok, it’s almost impossible to imagine the magnitude of the Lucky Girl Syndrome onslaught.
Some videos are from gurus and influencers who are already in the positive-thinking motivational space and have added a Lucky Girl TikTok or two to attract more followers. Others are by the Lucky Girls themselves — many of whom are white, young, vibrant, and conventionally attractive, and therefore already seem to be benefiting from privilege, even before the mantras. (”The universe is always conspiring in my favor.” “Miracles effortlessly flow to me.” “I am always in the right place at the right time.”)
Lucky girl after lucky girl testifies about how the belief system changed their lives, albeit sometimes in ways as seemingly insignificant as a noodle shop being open late at night when they thought it might be closed.
And the force is strong, even in Boston, as I learned on my #LGS binge. It helped one woman avoid an extra rental car fee at Logan, and ensured that another, a blonde in a Celtics cap, didn’t have her laser appointment canceled after all, “because everything works out for me.”
A Massachusetts bartender who lost her Tiger’s Eye crystal at first worried it would doom her financially. But then, she gushed to her TikTok viewers, she remembered she was “doing” Lucky Girl.
And guess what? “Honey, I got a $100 tip,” she tells us. “I also got news that my health insurance isn’t going to be costing as much per month, and I’m also losing a bunch of weight.”
I was starting to feel like a fool for missing out on this bonanza, particularly since I’d recently rented a car for a summer vacation and even the compacts were pricier than I’d expected. I decided to try again, this time with a better attitude.
“I am a lucky girl,” I said, sitting at my dining room table. “Expedia will find me a better deal than I got last time. I am a lucky girl.”
“What?” one of my sons called out, thinking I was talking to him. “I am a lucky girl,” I repeated robot style.
“OK,” he said, making sarcastic eye contact with the dog.
I opened the Expedia site, clicked the discount for members of AARP, quickly modified my mantra — “I am a lucky girl of a certain age” — and awaited my Lucky Girl discount.
Lucky Girl Syndrome is the latest in a long tradition of self-help, positive-thinking movements that periodically sweep society. Seventy years ago we had “The Power of Positive Thinking” by the American minister Norman Vincent Peale. In 2006, Rhonda Byrne, an Australian television writer and producer, gave the world “The Secret,” a philosophy based on what’s been called the “pseudo-scientific law of attraction,” which holds that positive thoughts bring positive results.
But with endless examples of misfortune all around us, the flip side of the Lucky Girl Syndrome is dark; by definition it seems to blame people who are suffering, and has also been criticized for its “toxic positivity.”
“Let’s talk about how ableist it is,” says Allie Priestley, a former shamanic practitioner, who describes herself as autistic and disabled, in a TikTok video. “Let’s talk about how messed up it is to tell people whose kids have cancer that ‘Your words are spells and you’re just not saying the right thing.’ ”
Seemingly benign trends like Lucky Girl Syndrome can harm people by leading them to ignore health or other problems that cannot be cured by the power of thought alone, Priestley told the Globe, and she plans to soon release a series about her own negative experiences with the positive-thinking movement on her YouTube channel.
The effectiveness of the Lucky Girl Syndrome has been investigated by reporters from publications that range from the BBC (“Lucky Girl Syndrome: Smug TikTok trend or life-changing positivity?” ) to Teen Vogue (“Lucky Girl Syndrome is Going Viral on TikTok,” Teen Vogue reported. “But Does it Work?”)
But perhaps the answer doesn’t come from psychologists with fancy degrees, or high-priced motivational coaches, but rather from the famously heartless Boston rental market. Consider the case of Alyson LaRue, a 22-year-old freelance video editor and podcast producer.
In a January TikTok she announced that she would be moving to Boston in just a few weeks’ time and that she would use the Lucky Girl Syndrome to find the “perfect” sublet. “Perfect location, perfect price, perfect-size room, perfect roommate, all of it,” she said.
On the video LaRue briefly wonders if she should be more “realistic.” But no! “I’m going to be the lucky b**** that I am, and trust that the perfect apartment is going to come to me,” she said.
She searched online, and found definite possibilities in the South End, Jamaica Plain, and Back Bay. But alas, in the end she got bad vibes from each. Reached by phone on Jan. 31 — when ideally she would have been making her way up I-95 from Florida to Boston — she was instead living with her grandmother in Lancaster, Penn.
Is the Boston rental market where the Lucky Girl Syndrome goes to die, I asked her. Does even it have its limits?
“It all depends,” she said, “on whether you truly have a Lucky Girl mentality or if you just think you do.”
The way she sees it, she did have good luck. It appeared in the form of her not finding a place, she said. “I’m being directed to where l am meant to go.”
Editor’s note: Beth is still awaiting her Lucky Girl discount on a rental car.
Beth Teitell can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.