‘I’m so excited,’ says Roxie Nafousi. ‘I’ve always wanted to be in Grazia.’ It’s no surprise to hear this, because Roxie’s special skill – which she is trying to teach the world – is to turn dreams into reality.
Roxie is the author of Manifest: 7 Steps To Living Your Best Life. The book, a guide to the self-help practice known as manifestation, is becoming a phenomenon – it has been in the top five of The Sunday Times’ best-sellers list for nine weeks and Bella Hadid has been spotted carrying a distinctive orange copy around New York.
The appeal of manifestation is obvious: transform your life simply by changing the way you think. There’s a bit more to it than that, however. ‘I’m trying to debunk the myth that it’s only about visualising what you want and waiting for it while thinking positive thoughts,’ says Roxie, 31. ‘You do need to have clear goals. But the next step is to understand that what’s blocking you is fear, insecurity and low self-worth. That’s where inner work comes in, because you can’t undo decades of self-doubt overnight.’
The practice became famous in the noughties thanks to Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret, which counted Oprah Winfrey as a fan. But recently it’s taken off on Instagram (where there are seven million posts tagged #manifestation) and TikTok (where the hashtag has been viewed 15 billion times). This resurgence was probably boosted by the sense of helplessness that many of us felt in lockdown – but it also ties into the interest in self-help and spirituality that’s come from the wellness movement.
Her own life, says Roxie, demonstrates how effective the process of manifestation can be. Born in Saudi Arabia to Iraqi parents, she moved to Oxford aged two. Being Iraqi made her a target for bullies: other children called her Saddam Hussein and locked her in a phone box. Though she has a certain amount of privilege – she was privately educated and joined a wealthy party scene when she moved to London – the seed of self-loathing had already been sown. ‘I don’t remember ever being happy,’ she says. ‘In my twenties, I turned to cocaine, cigarettes and booze, and I couldn’t even tell you what I did in those 10 years. I had no purpose, no job and toxic relationships.’
In an attempt to turn this around, she went to Thailand and learned to teach yoga. ‘I got back thinking, great – I’ve done yoga for a month, I’ve been vegan, I’ve not smoked,’ she says. ‘Then I went to a gallery opening and, before I went, I took a line of coke. I stayed out for two days straight. I thought, I’m never going to change.’
She was in deep despair when a friend recommended a podcast about manifestation. ‘Something in it just hit me,’ says Roxie. ‘I realised that it was all about how you feel about yourself. I had no self-worth, so of course I wasn’t attracting anything good into my life. I was keeping myself stuck in this misery.’
She started reading up on it, trying to shift her own thought patterns and behaviour. Weeks later, she met a new partner and quickly became pregnant. Life didn’t transform overnight, though. ‘I suffered insane pre-natal depression. But I started being able to visualise what my life would be like on the other side of it.’ Now she’s in a much happier place, with a thriving career hosting workshops and writing, and a son, Wolfe, who’ll be three in June.
Manifestation is not woo-woo, insists Roxie. ‘It feels magical, as though miracles are happening – but it’s not at all.’ The book argues that by making an effort to think and act differently, we prime the brain
to see opportunities that it wouldn’t otherwise notice, and it develops new neural pathways. (Roxie and other proponents of manifestation also believe that it’s rooted in quantum physics, with similar energies attracting each other, although this is scientifically controversial.)
However manifestation works, it requires more than just thinking. ‘A big part of it is acting as your future self would,’ she says. ‘Instead of saying, I’ll do this when I’m more confident or when I feel better, you start to behave in those ways now. If you act beyond your fears, and understand that this might feel uncomfortable but you’re going to do it anyway, you will push yourself further towards that dream place.'
One criticism of manifestation is that not everyone has control of their destiny. Can this practice help those who are caught in seriously desperate situations? ‘Life throws people the most unfortunate, unfair circumstances,’ says Roxie. ‘But I do believe that manifestation can help everyone– because it gives people a sense of hope.’
HOW TO MANIFEST YOUR DREAMS
■ Write down what you want and visualise what it would look and feel like, in as much detail as possible.
■ Make a list of all the fears and doubts that are holding you back. Try to replace those fears with empowering affirmations.
■ Revisit memories that made you feel shame, and offer love and understanding to that younger version of yourself.
■ Start taking practical steps towards the things you want. Behave as your ideal future self would.
■ Keep a gratitude journal. When you struggle, focus on gratitude for yourself, your life and the world.
■ Treat other people’s success as inspiration.
■ Have patience, and trust that you’re moving in the right direction.