Crab Bucket Mentality: How to Identify and Deal with It

Crab mentality, also known as the crab bucket theory, is a way of thinking that can be described by phrases such as:

“If I don’t have it, you won’t have it either.”

“If I can’t do it, you will never be able to do it.”

“If I can’t achieve success, you won’t be successful either.”

“If I can’t reach higher, neither will you.”

Crab Bucket Mentality How to Identify and Deal with It

This theory has real-world confirmation in the physical world, for example, by observing live crabs. If we place a single crab in a bucket of water, it can easily escape from it. But if there are several crabs in the bucket, they all begin to cling to the brave one who decides to climb out, thereby trying to pull it back. As a result, no one gets out of the bucket.

An analogy and confirmation of this theory can also be found in human behavior. People often try to diminish the merits and confidence of those who achieve great success in life. The crab mentality is very common, and I think everyone has been a crab, interacted with a crab, or witnessed this phenomenon from the sidelines at least once.

Why do people condemn or devalue the achievements of others?

Usually, people do this out of a sense of envy, malice, or competition, just to diminish the confidence of the person they are attacking and somehow stop their progress. I think these things most often happen unconsciously, meaning a person with a crab mentality is not aware of why they condemn or devalue someone.

Possible reasons for a person’s crab mentality behavior

  • Insecurity and low self-esteem.
  • Unfulfilled desires and envy.
  • Boring, uneventful life.
  • Fear, laziness, unwillingness to learn, invest time, make mistakes, try, and achieve. It’s easier to belittle someone, insult, or judge them than to start acting and achieving similar results.
  • Attempt to elevate oneself in their own or others’ eyes by putting someone else down.
  • Fear of taking risks, leaving the comfort zone, or making changes. It’s easier to criticize or shame someone else for their success and continue being like everyone else in their own little world with comfort.
  • Fear that someone else will succeed, for example, when a person cannot admit that someone might be better than them at something. “I cannot bear your success; it’s unbearable for me.”

How to recognize crab mentality in your environment

Crab mentality can be found in anyone in your environment, and unfortunately, this can even include very close people: mother, father, brother/sister, husband/wife, and loved one. It can also be friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and even strangers on the internet. Successful people are constantly pursued by crabs, just think of social networks: as soon as someone posts a photo on Instagram, writes an article, or makes a video, there is always a crowd of perpetually dissatisfied and envious people who simply have to leave an angry comment. Typically, when a person sets their sights on a big goal or starts doing something new, taking steps towards further development, there are immediately many dissenters who want to express their expert opinion on the matter.

When communicating, a crab often uses phrases such as:

  • Any insults like “you’re fat, ugly, you’re a failure,” etc.
  • Constant or unfounded criticism: “this is nonsense,” “I don’t like what you’re doing/how you look/what you’re eating,” etc.
  • “You can’t do it,” “you won’t succeed,” “this isn’t for you,” “don’t stick out”
  • “You’re too old/young,” “it’s already too late/too early”
  • “Why do you need this expensive bag/new car/huge apartment/etc.? Manka from the 5th floor bought a bag that’s no worse at the market, ten times cheaper/ she walks/ lives with her mother and everything is fine. Money doesn’t buy happiness, you know!”
  • “Why are you getting a second degree/starting a business/traveling endlessly, it’s time to think about children/get a decent job/settle down,” etc.

In my opinion, such behavior of people has deep reasons, including envy. Envy has always existed and will continue to exist. Many successful people have achieved their heights precisely because of envy. It’s just that someone uses this feeling constructively, making some conclusions for themselves, learning or adopting the experience of successful people, while someone uses it destructively, and that’s how we get crabs.

My Personal Insights on How to Combat Crab Bucket Mentality

If you notice a crab in your environment, it’s better to stop communicating with such a person or at least minimize it to a minimum.

If you are criticized or humiliated, try to distance yourself from the situation and disable critical perception of information, i.e. try not to take on faith what your interlocutor says about you. You know yourself better, no one can impose an opinion on you about yourself or what you do until you agree with it yourself.

Listen only to those who know more and better understand the issue you are interested in. Constructive criticism from such people will only bring you benefits.

As a rule, those who criticize you do not live the way you dream. Realize this fact and do not take the advice of such people seriously. It is better to listen to the advice of successful people whom you want to resemble.

Successful people are usually not inclined to devalue or criticize other people. Often they are active and energetic people who are ready to support the initiatives of others.

It’s banal, but it’s a fact: try to be with those people who respect, love, and support you.

And the most important piece of advice – be prepared that people will try to pull you down. Keep moving in the direction you need. Only you know what is good or bad for you, what you need or don’t need, and what to do or not to do. No one can decide this for you. You will definitely achieve what you want, the main thing is to put in enough effort. Just keep moving.

Don’t be afraid to suffer defeats, make mistakes, and allow yourself not to be the best. It’s important to learn, analyze your actions, draw conclusions, and keep working. Mistakes and failures are a normal process, a natural part that you will have to go through on the path to success. Think about all this when the next crab with a smart look tells you what to do with your life. Smile, keep going, and you will definitely reach your dream.

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