The Crab Mentality

There once was a man who sat on a fishing dock and observed how a bunch of live crabs, in a bucket, behaved.

While all of them squirmed at the bottom, every now and then, one crab would crawl up the side in an effort to reach the top and escape. But each time it made its way closer to the rim, a crab from below would reach up and pull it back down. Then, another crab would climb upward, and again, one crab from the bottom would tug it back down.

A crab placed alone in a bucket will easily climb out and escape, but when you place it with a few of its mates, this interesting phenomenon occurs: One at a time, as the crabs try to escape, other crabs will pull them back down to their misery and the group’s collective demise.

In psychology, this behavior became known as “The Crab Effect,” or “The Crab Mentality,” as a way to illustrate the selfish, harmful, and jealous mindset of some members in a group, who will try to undermine and halt the progress of the other better-performing members in the group.

The Crab Mentality thrives on the fixed mindset that was described above, but this mindset is also an extension of what Stephen Covey described in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as the scarcity mindset: “People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me.”

It’s a mindset we cultivate from our environment and one that is built on the assumption that if someone else becomes successful, this would somehow mean that we can no longer reach higher levels of success anymore.

And this kind of thinking will suck the joy out of your life: You’ll perceive your peers as competitors rather than people you can collaborate with and learn from. You’ll work from a place of fear, emptiness, and insecurity rather than a place of self-worth and confidence. You’ll narrow-down your vision and so you’ll only see the one small piece of the pie, not the entirety of it.

So, here’s how you can build and maintain a mindset of growth and abundance:

Push, don’t pull. You don’t need to be the crab pulling others down. Instead, you can be the one who lifts them up. Learn to give and be in service to other people.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Mahatma Gandhi

Consciously practice gratitude. Gratitude is the secret to an abundance mindset, and the daily practice of it trains your mind to see all the good that is already there.

Stop comparing. Only compare yourself to your previous self. Sure, it’s easier said than done.

Drop “I’m jealous” from your daily use. Jealousy will ruin you. It breeds unjust feelings of hate and resentment. When someone works hard for something, and they share their news of triumph with you, reply with “I’m proud of you,” or “I’m happy for you,” or “I admire what you’re doing.” These words will elicit more joyful emotions in you than “I’m jealous.”

Don’t judge others, see their light as inspiration instead. You can paint somebody’s success in a negative light. You can point out flaws in their achievements. You can say they don’t deserve it, complain that it’s unfair, succumb to the pitiful victim role, and judge this person for all the luck they’ve enjoyed along the way. Or you can be compassionate. You can recognize the vulnerable effort that a person endured. You can view him or her as a source of light and inspiration that sparks the fire in you. It all lies in your perspective.

You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it… If you want to maximize your odds of success, then you need to operate in an environment that accelerates your results rather than hinders them.

James Clear

Form a new tribe. One that inspires you. That supports you. That helps you fully step into your own world so you can lean into what calls you—what you know is right for you—and swim in the deep end of the sea, away from the shallow end, where everyone else swims.

  • Find someone who will water your strengths.
  • Find someone who will dim the voice of your inner critic so you can raise that of your confident-self.
  • Find someone who will lift you up, not claw you down.

Ultimately, no one can keep you in a confined box except you. Yes, it’s difficult to succeed when people are constantly trying to pull you down, but it’s not impossible. It can be done, and it has.

We can all strive to be a dreamer, a visionary, someone seeking something better for yourself, then start the crawl upward, because before you know it, the constant effort, struggle, and sacrifice will forge the wings upon which you will soar, and fly.

And once you climb out of that bucket, the open sea is yours to discover.

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