a doll reaching for the sky surrounded by starry confetti with a chain around her ankles with the words what's wrong with manifesting

What’s Wrong with Manifesting? What You Need to Know

As I explore Instagram, I’ve noticed a trendy belief: manifesting. Essentially, it means that if you believe in something hard enough, it will come true. Thus, you’ve “manifested” it. However, manifesting gets some things wrong, and the results can be toxic. Whatever your beliefs are, you’ll want to avoid the myths.

While some science is related to manifesting, other times, the belief can veer into magical thinking. After all, believing you can fly can result in falling off a roof and breaking your leg. Believing that manifesting always works could get you hurt.

Regardless of your beliefs, it’s important to be mindful when we speak. Here’s how to separate the helpful parts of manifesting from the wrong ones.

Manifesting, Psychology, and Science

I’m not going to say that all manifesting is garbage. After all, I’ve talked about the power of mindset before.

There are a few ways that manifesting works:

  • Improving your internal dialogue
  • Positive visualization
  • Unconsciously changing your behavior
  • Consciously changing your behavior

After all, believing that something is worth a try is the first step. If you’re willing to try things and set goals, you’re more likely to succeed.

Visualizing can help you, too. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps famously uses visualization to prepare him for races. He imagines swimming. Sometimes he pictures what he’d do in bad situations (like if his swimsuit or goggles broke). When he imagines himself solving problems, it helps prepare him to face them in real life.

Then, there are the ways that manifesting can trick us:

  • Confirmation bias
  • A false sense of security

Recognizing this is important for both yourself and others.

Manifesting and Mental Illness

If you have a mental illness like anxiety, depression, or OCD, then the idea of manifesting may feed into your worst fears. It can turn your illness even scarier.

If you have social anxiety and someone doesn’t like you, is it your fault? If you have intrusive thoughts about fire, are you the reason your parents’ house burned down?


In fact, some experts worry that belief in manifesting could worsen or trigger mental illness. The belief that your thoughts control reality is something you see in OCD or schizophrenia.

If you’re afraid to have negative thoughts, then trying to suppress them could backfire. It’s just like how being told not to imagine a polar bear makes you think of them more.


doodle of a girl who got splashed by a mud puddle with the words bad things can happen to good people through no fault of their own
You don’t control everything. (Instagram)

In its worst form, manifesting can sound like one of those cure-all scams: “you weren’t cured because you didn’t believe hard enough.” You wouldn’t have failed if you tried harder. Your appendix wouldn’t have needed removal if you thought harder about vegetables. And you wouldn’t have been hurt by a bad boyfriend if you spent more time trying to make him the perfect man.

There will always be an element of bad luck in life. It would be cruel to blame someone for suffering an accident, especially if another person or a force of nature caused it.

These things aren’t always your fault. Sometimes, you do everything right and you still don’t get what you want. You can control yourself, but not the rest of the world.

Why Do Some People Cling to It?

It isn’t just confirmation bias.

Some people cling to the idea of manifesting to the extreme, including the toxic parts. While the logical part of me doesn’t get it, some of the emotional part does.

Life is scary and unpredictable. Bad things happen by surprise. Failure happens even to people who work hard. Facing that reality isn’t easy.

A strong belief in manifesting can help you feel protected. When you believe that you can manifest anything, you feel like you’re in control. Your willpower will magically protect you from random disasters. If you feel starved for security, then imagining you can create it in your mind might calm you.

However, believing something doesn’t make it true.

Avoiding the Wrong Parts of Manifesting

screenshot of Captain Picard with the quote it is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.
Here’s a reminder from Captain Picard.
(Star Trek, Peak Performance, a great episode)

I’m pretty big on science. I don’t believe in manifesting. However, if it’s your thing, I’m not going to tell you to throw it all away.

Instead, I recommend taking a logical approach. There’s value in working on your mindset and actions. However, there’s no value in pretending you can control everything if you try hard enough.

While you work on self-improvement, remember these ideas:

  • Remember that your actions, not just your thoughts, shape your world.
  • Recognize obstacles, not just goals.
  • Don’t let manifesting turn into victim-blaming.
  • Be mindful of people with mental illnesses on social media. You want to encourage them, not scare them.
  • Life will always have random elements.

Above all, differentiate between the things you can and can’t control. Staying in touch with reality helps you improve it.

How can you turn your dreams into actions?

4 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Manifesting? What You Need to Know”

  1. I agree that manifesting can be toxic, and of course in all cases illnesses, be it physical or mental, require help and time. Yet I think to a small degree manifesting can be of a help to some, because if they believe in something stronlgy enough then psychologically they may feel a little better. It is a bit like with crystals I guess.

    1. Ah, like the placebo effect? Yes, that probably makes an impact on people. And sometimes visualizing positivity helps people get in a better mood and/or take positive action. I hope that people recognize the upsides of a positive mindset while keeping its limitations in mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I have to agree with you on this. I think positive thinking is very important and a good thing to encourage, but I always feel itโ€™s good to temper it with some pragmatism and reality too.

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