Photo: Andrew Boyers (Reuters)
It’s been hard to avoid the world of manifestation over the last few months. The Katie Holmes-starring movie The Secret: Dare To Dream has landed on Netflix, inspired by Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 self-help book. The Ariana Grande song “Just Like Magic” talks about attracting everything she wants with a click of a finger. And a scandal has been brewing on social media, with influencer Sarah Akwisombe facing criticism for charging ambitious women to learn how to manifest large amounts of money.
And yet manifestation – the art of achieving your dreams simply by willing them into existence – isn’t anything new. It’s been praised by Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Jim Carrey, who all credit the movement for contributing towards their success.
Like every other cash-strapped millennial, the idea that I can merely imagine my way to a bigger bank balance is highly enticing. I work from home as a freelance writer and personal finance blogger, but I also have a part-time supermarket job. I’d love to write full-time, but I struggle with confidence, self-discipline and focus. Will that change with a positive mindset? I set out on a mission to manifest £1,000 in five days.
I start my new journey by joining money manifestation Facebook groups, following abundance experts on Instagram, and flicking through Akwisombe’s self-help book, The Money Is Coming.
I watch a Netflix documentary on The Secret and yell at the TV in frustration. One of its interviewees is Lisa Nichols, an author and motivational speaker: “Every time you look inside your mail expecting to see a bill, guess what? It’ll be there,” she says. “It showed up because The Law of Attraction is always being obedient to your thoughts.” I hate to be negative, but if we look in our mailboxes expecting to see bills, it’s probably because we haven’t paid them yet.
The only money I earn today comes from a contracted five hour shift at the supermarket. I’ve been trying to get overtime lately, but the hours keep getting snapped up by other people. My inability to get enough overtime is something I worry about.
Disappointed by my uninspiring start and convinced I’m going to flop, I turn to someone who’s successfully managed it themselves.
Fashion copywriter Katie Ramsingh has invested in one-to-one Zoom sessions with a manifesting coach. “I think it’s so important to go into any manifestation work with an open mind,” she tells me. “If you approach it with even a tiny bit of doubt or skepticism, you’re already putting up barriers and kind of setting yourself up for failure.”
With that in mind, I share a post to my Instagram feed that says: “The universe will bless me with an extra £1,000 by Wednesday” and bite my tongue when someone replies: “I love your work and fully support what you do… but I think manifestation is a crock of shit.”
‘Be optimistic!’ I remind myself, suppressing my urge to join in with the piss-taking.
I watch a YouTube video by a manifesting coach who claims to have successfully manifested $6,000 in 24 hours. She says: “Whenever you feel like you can’t afford something, just go virtual shopping. Start coming from a place of financial freedom and clicking and putting in your cart all those things you want to buy online.”
Seeing as I’m in a #abundant mindset, when my boyfriend takes me food shopping, I pay for his stuff as well as mine. I draw the line at the bottle of whiskey he wants, though.
I start wondering whether positive thinking, affirmations and behaving like a rich person is enough. It feels like I should probably put in a bit of work.
Creative agency founder Anna Butterworth paid approximately £100 for a money manifestation course created by Sarah Akwisombe and Jennifer “The Money Medium” McFarlane. Anna emphasises that money won’t fall into your lap simply because you wish it to.
“Sarah and Jennifer are both very clear that it’s not about just putting something out there and expecting it to come back,” she says. “It’s about working out what you need to get what you want and ensuring you stay focused.”
Admittedly, I haven’t put much effort in over the last few days, so I start looking at my income sources to see what’s most likely to bring in cash fast. I spend a couple of hours making the content on my website more confident and persuasive. I add more affiliate links, share my most promotional posts on Instagram, and wait for the money to come pouring in.
I make £49.53 in affiliate money. It’s more than my website would usually make in a day, but it’s not completely unheard of – and it’s a long way off £1,000.
In the hours leading up to my supermarket shift, I devote time to meditation and affirmation. I reassure myself that when I get to work, there’ll be an abundance of overtime and I’ll snap up as many hours as I want.
When I get to work, I ask my manager why there’s so much more overtime than usual. “People are off sick or on holiday,” he says. When I asked the universe for overtime, I didn’t exactly expect it to give two of my colleagues coronavirus. I sign up for three overtime shifts which should see me earning an extra £204.60 on payday.
It’s the last day of my money manifestation challenge and it’s hard to determine what to give manifesting credit for and what to put down to work, privilege and luck.
£324 lands in my bank account for editing work I did in October and I receive £71.40 in affiliate money. The former has little to do with manifestation, but I do think this challenge helped me to increase my blogging income by inspiring me to change up my website.
Despite the questionable results, it’s easy to see how people get sucked into this world. The most prolific manifesters on the internet tend to be beautiful and immaculately dressed. Their feeds are aspirational; their houses ludicrously boujee. They often have huge online audiences – something that their target market often wants for themselves.
Customer care consultant Misch Fretwell invested £4,550 of her government bounce back loan into a manifestation coaching brand. “Unfortunately,” she sighs, “it did not live up to its name. I would think long and hard before investing in any other influencer brands who sugar coat the hard work involved in building a business and instead look for the free support widely available on the internet from credible business people.”
Although many find the manifestation industry inspiring, its teachings are at odds with professional financial advice. There are even some fears it takes advantage of people struggling with money.
One ethical banking employee who wishes to stay anonymous says: “My big concern is around vulnerable customers who are more at risk of suffering detriment because of this. Banks and other regulated financial services have to take appropriate action to protect these individuals, but the same is not required of people dishing out advice randomly on the internet.”
She adds: “Services such as Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service offer practical and impartial money advice in language that is clear and straightforward. Not big and exciting, and won’t make you rich overnight, but will help you better understand how to manage your money effectively which is much more likely to lead to financial stability in the long term.”
After a week of trying – and failing – to manifest £1,000, I’m feeling conflicted. Most manifesting techniques aren’t that different from the tips in traditional self-help books. Creating specific goals, having faith in your skills and working hard? It’s not exactly rocket science.
But I do agree with those who highlight manifestation’s dark side. When someone tries to manifest money and they succeed, they can thank the universe and those who taught them how to tap into it. When they fail, they only have themselves to blame, but manifestation “experts” are only a few clicks away with a paid course or coaching session.
I’m £772.76 richer, but the majority of that comes from the editing work I’ve already done and my contracted supermarket shifts. Once I subtract that, I’ve only made £325.53. As tempting as it is to pick up my card and learn more, I don’t think I manifested money over the last week; I earned it.