What Is A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? Psychology, Definition And More

By: Gabrielle Seunagal

Updated February 11, 2021

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction which manifests into reality as a result of an individual's beliefs and subsequent actions. These types of predictions can be both positive and negative and generally have a rippling effect. Self-fulfilling prophecies have been regularly depicted in fictional tales, stories and various forms of media. Even in the real world, the preconceived notions which we have about life, ourselves and what lies ahead can directly impact our experiences.

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A Closer Look At Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

There are many thoughts and theories regarding self-fulfilling prophecies and the manners which they impact our lives. However, when it boils down to it, self-fulfilling prophecies largely have to do with how an individual's belief influence their choices which in turn generate specific results. Now, this is not to say that every belief which a person has will come true; however, it does mean that there are occasions where conceptions and beliefs can manifest into reality as a result of a person's actions.

There are many examples of both positive and negative self-fulfilling prophecies in real life. For instance, take someone who believes that they were born to be successful and do great things in life. An individual with this type of mindset is likelier to work hard, take risks and surround themselves with others who can be advantageous to them. After all, why wouldn't someone go the extra mile if they believe doing so will yield favorable results? By working hard, taking the right risks and associating with the right people, this, in turn, sets the person up for success, thus turning their previous notion into a fulfilled prophecy.

The same instance applies in negative cases. If a person feels as though they have no value and aren't going to amount to anything in life, this too can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone with this dismal outlook may engage in questionable behavior, squander opportunities and fail to dedicate themselves. After all, why go the extra mile if you don't think it will generate any meaningful outcome?

The Link Between Thoughts, Actions, And Outcomes

One of the most important things to understand about self-fulfilling prophecies is the link between thoughts, action and subsequent outcomes. Anything which has been manifested in the real world has first originated in the human mind. This, in and of itself, speaks volumes about how powerful a person's thoughts truly are.

For better or for worse, your thoughts set the foundation for everything which you will do and experience in life. In many regards, this deals with the law of attraction. You attract what you are; you attract what you think about. Often, the quality of an individual's thoughts determines how they see the world, what people they choose to associate themselves with and, of course, their actions.

Actions are very important, and this is something which society regularly touches upon across the board. Your actions determine whether or not you do well academically, preserve friendships and excel in the workplace. A person's actions have bearings on what opportunities they are exposed to, whether or not they get in trouble with law enforcement and so much more. No one can deny the importance of actions and how much weight they carry in each's life and the lives of others in the world.

Finally comes outcomes. Outcomes are merely a result of actions. Outcomes which are also self-fulfilling prophecy occur as a result of a person's thoughts and actions. Self-fulfilling prophecies can happen both over the short term and the long term. For better or for worse, these types of outcomes always begin with oneself and the predictions which they have regarding their own lives. Never in the history of the world has there been an outcome which wasn't generated by someone's actions.

Interpersonal Relationships And Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Self-fulfilling prophecies can manifest in a plethora of ways. Contrary to certain beliefs, they are not only connected to the life of the person harboring certain outlooks. Interpersonal relationships can and often are impacted by self-fulfilling prophecies, even if the parties are not consciously aware of it. This happens all the time in romantic relationships, friendships and even ties with relatives.

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In friendships, there are sometimes cases where one party has doubts about the other. A person may think their friend is gossiping behind their back or otherwise not as benevolent as they may appear to be on the surface. This could lead to the person distancing themselves from someone who they once considered a friend. The friend in this scenario, who may or may not have been gossiping behind the other's back, may, in turn, begin to wonder why they are being iced out. Over time, this could lead to resentment, and the friend may begin gossiping behind the other person's back even if they weren't doing so initially.

The impacts which self-fulfilling prophecies can have on interpersonal relationships is not mutually exclusive to isolated one-on-one interactions. Sometimes, the general outlooks which we have on life and future experiences can manifest into reality. This occurs time and time again in various ways, even when people aren't fully cognizant of it.

One of the most basic examples of this is how one views people. Some individuals believe that everyone is out to get them and means them to harm in one way or another. This can lead to them attracting toxic relationships into their life or otherwise coming across people who do mean them harm. On the other hand, a different individual who believes that there are still good people in the world is much likelier to attract these type of people and relationships into their lives.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are largely impacted by how a person sees the world. This doesn't mean that someone should turn a blind eye or act like something that doesn't exist when it's very real. However, it does mean that what we give focus and energy to is what we will attract to our personal lives sooner or later.

How To Change Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

If you notice certain patterns in your life, then the chances are that a self-fulfilling prophecy has played a hand in one way or another. If you don't realize this, that's OK; you can always take time to evaluate.

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Think about some conceptions and beliefs which you have accepted as factual. Are these conceptions positive? Will the beliefs benefit you in both the long term and the short term? What's happening in your life which you would like to see change? It may take time to be able to answer these questions truthfully, and that's OK. It's just important to arrive at these answers because they hold the keys to recurring patterns which you see in your life.

Assuming that you are pleased with various recurring themes in your life, then there's no issue. However, if you want to change certain patterns and outcomes, then getting to the root of the self-fulfilling prophecy is what will ultimately allow you to make the difference and implement the change of your desire. Overriding various thoughts which have been programmed into you can take time, but at the end of the day, going through this process will be worth it if it means changing your life for the better.

In Closing

Understanding self-fulfilling prophecies and the psychology behind them is one of the best ways to understand more about yourself and life in general. There are no coincidences, and everything happens for a reason, even if discovering that reason takes time.

One of the greatest things about self-fulfilling prophecies is that new ones can always be written. No matter who you are or what your life looks like at this point, it's never too late to adopt a better mindset, improve your expectations and change how you view life. Each of these things will make a difference, and the benefits will manifest over time.

Did you know that you do not have to go through this process alone? The idea that we must face everything on our own regardless of how serious or tough it may be is a serious misconception. The fact of the matter is that help will always be available to those who are open and receptive to it.

Here at BetterHelp, we have an amazing team of professionals who would be thrilled to work with you. The benefits of sitting down and working with a therapist are astronomical, especially if you are looking to change your life and improve the quality of certain self-fulfilling prophecies. No matter who you are or what your story may be, BetterHelp is here for you. We all face challenges in life, but the ability to go through challenges with a strong, healthy support system is what makes all the difference in the world.

You can contact BetterHelp at any time simply by clicking here.


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