What Is the “Crabs in a Bucket” Mentality?
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Picture this: You just got a promotion at work, and are so proud of yourself because the long hours and late nights have finally paid off. But your co-workers don't seem to be so proud of you. They may even be talking about "favoritism" or some "unfair" advantage.
Have you ever been in a situation where you are really happy about a personal achievement, but find that the people around you are belittling it?
Or do you frequently feel excited about working up the motivation to make a positive change, only to have your “friends” dismiss it as being unimportant?
While it’s wonderful to believe that the people around us only want us to succeed in our endeavors, there will be times when you’ll encounter a phenomenon that people call the “crabs in a bucket" mentality (or simply the “crab” mentality).
In this article, we’ll explore this concept and why it’s important to surround yourself with the right people if you want to live a positive life and grow as a person.
What Is the Crab Mentality?
If you put one crab in a bucket, it can claw its way up and out, and return to the wild. But something interesting happens if you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket. If one of them tries to climb out, the rest pull it back into the bucket.
Further, if the crab tries to climb out a second time, the other crabs gang up on the crab again, and may actually begin to break its claws to completely hinder its progress. This means that none of the crabs end up escaping because they are all working against each other.
Unfortunately, this type of mentality is often translated into human behavior. The crab mentality is a metaphor for how humans respond when they see someone else around them achieving some kind of self-improvement that they can't achieve themselves.
The phrase “If I can’t have it, neither can you” best describes the “crabs in a bucket” mentality. While humans may not physically try to break each other down like the crabs do, they may try to break other people's spirits when they see someone else is on their way to success.
When people with crab mentality see others around them advancing, they subconsciously (or even consciously) reach out to hold them back. They do what they can to hinder progress, or even stop the person from simply trying to succeed. People with the crab mentality feel insecure when they see other people improve, and assume that they are failing because other people are succeeding.
The common phrase “misery loves company” is very true, and can be seen in these types of situations. It is a proverb that suggests that people who are miserable can handle their own problems better if those around them are miserable too.
This phrase is typically used when observing someone who is miserable giving grief to someone else. People who are miserable want those around them to be miserable as well. Therefore, when they see someone getting ahead, they want to pull them back down.
Real-Life Examples of “Crabs in a Bucket” Mentality
1. Physical Health
An example of this is when you want to lose weight, but “crabs” persuade you that you look “fine” and that it’s all right to indulge. This may come in the form of peer pressure to eat some of that birthday cake in the office, or discouragement of going to the gym to get some exercise.
2. Financial Health
This might be when you’re trying to save money, but “crabs” invite you to expensive dinners and make you feel guilty if you try to turn down the offer. They may also make you feel bad for bringing your own lunch to work when the crew wants to go out every day.
3. Professional Success
A good example here is when you get a well-deserved promotion, but “crabs” pull you down by implying you didn’t get it fairly. This may be especially true if you suddenly have a higher position than the rest of the crabs, because they can feed off of each other to try to tear you down.
4. Transitory Success
This might be when you’re working on escaping your nine-to-five job, but the “crabs” in the office impede your path by either belittling your plan for independence or making it more difficult for you to transition to a new position.
5. Social Health
An example here is when “crabs” spread nasty rumors about you or other people. “Crabs” prefer to break other people rather down instead of talking about ideas and solutions to problems.
How to Overcome the Crab Mentality and Succeed
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn
This popular quote cements the idea that, whether we are aware of it or not, our methods of thinking, behaviors, and decision-making processes are greatly influenced by the people with whom we spend the most time. This means that if you are always around people who make poor life decisions in the area where you are aiming to improve, you are at risk of being pulled down.
But if you are able to build a different type of network—one that emphasizes self-improvement—you will be more likely to achieve the success that you are seeking.
Here are a few ways to surround yourself with people who will help facilitate your improvements and empower you to be a better version of yourself:
1. Join a mastermind group.
Identify an area of your life that you want to improve, and find a mastermind group to help you do so. These groups are comprised of like-minded people who come together for a common goal. The idea is that when the efforts of several people are combined, the overall amount of mental power equates to more than the sum of its parts.
2. Work with an accountability partner.
This partnership is a mutually agreed upon relationship to coach each other on a regular basis to increase the probability of each other's success. Find a supportive friend whom you trust, and who is also trying to get ahead in some area of their life, and team up. Learn how to work with an accountability partner here.
3. Attend local Meetups.
Find Meetups in your area that are related to the topic of your interest. This will help you connect with like-minded people who have similar goals of success.
4. Listen to podcasts and read books.
Listening to podcasts and reading books in the area that you are interested in improving can be motivating and helpful. You will likely be able to get to know the success stories of people who have come before you, and use their advice and guidance to create your own success.
5. Talk about and share your personal views.
Talk about your passions with other people. This will help you attract like-minded people who can engage in conversation that you will find interesting and informative.
6. Sign up for classes.
Find a local or online class that teaches about the area of life you are interested in pursuing. This can also help you meet people with similar interests, and help you learn more about your topic of interest.
Simply put, the way to overcome other people’s crab mentality is to change your environment. You can't change how other people think, so in order for these destructive thoughts to not affect you, you have to move on and spend your time with people who are supportive of your success. You can't allow other people to get you off track, or allow their jealousy to weigh you down.
Try out one or two of the strategies we just discussed and you’ll be on your way to surrounding yourself with the right kind of people who bring out the best in you instead of trying to pull you back down into their bucket. No matter what obstacles you face, you can succeed and push through if you treat people with respect, keep your focus on your goal, and stay true to yourself.