Crabs In A Bucket: You Should Know If You Are Ever Stuck In One

    We, humans, are a social species. We all prefer to live in a society where we can interact with different people, communicate with them, share our emotions, and stay together in both good and bad times. Believe it or not, the society we live in has a great impact on us.

    Society or the people around us being such an important aspect of life, imagine the same society holding you back, betraying you in hundreds of ways, constantly pulling you down no matter how hard you try to change things.

    Yes, I know I just contradicted myself. But that is the truth and unfortunately, that’s how society works; at least for some people if not for all. That is what we call the “Crabs in a bucket” or “The crab mentality”.

    But what do these poor crabs have to do with us humans? Aren’t we humans a lot different from the rest of the animals? Aren’t we the best living species amongst them? Well, in most aspects we are different but unfortunately, the analogy of ‘crabs in a bucket’ best fits human behavior.

    How Does Society Impact Us?

    Remember those times from our childhood when our parents used to tell us to surround ourselves with good people? or to be friends with the right people? We never really thought about it, did we?

    We may or may not have listened to them while making friends in our childhood but growing up you must have realized why our parents used to say so and why surrounding ourselves with the right people is so important.

    Every single individual seeks growth and improvement with each year passing by. Some of us get successful and rise above the rest, some of us don’t. Even if you had a clone copy of yourself in some part of the world, there would be a huge difference between you and him just because of the different kinds of people around you and your clone.

    Jim Rohn has well quoted that:

    “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”

    At some point in life, you might have thought that you are one of the crabs in a bucket or you are a victim of crab mentality. Maybe you can relate with your work life, social life or even the locality you live in.

    Let’s consider this example, suppose you are working in a recognized company, sincerely doing your 9 to 5 job in peace. If you are seeking growth, you will be willing to invest extra time and effort in it.

    However, your colleagues may say things like “why are you working so hard for this? What’s the need? Don’t waste your time behind this stupid task.” It is obvious that such comments from colleagues are going to bother you and might even stop you from achieving your goal.

    crabs in a bucket

    Understanding The Crab Mentality

    The above-mentioned scenario is the best example of a bunch of crabs in a bucket. You are working towards your goals but the people around you are not letting you do what’s needed. Instead of supporting you, they are pulling you back and that’s what crabs in a bucket mean. You wonder how? Well, let’s see.

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    Once a fisherman sitting near the fishing dock observed the behavior of crabs placed in his bucket. He noticed that if there is just one crab in the bucket, it will climb all the way up using his claws. It’s pretty much easy for the crab to rescue itself and get back into the water.

    However, when the fisherman put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, none of the crabs made their way outside the bucket. All the crabs wriggled at the bottom of the bucket. Even if a crab tries to climb, before it could escape, another crab would reach up and pull the crab back into the bucket.

    Every time a crab tries to escape from the bucket, the rest of the crabs will constantly pull that crab back into the bucket and this continues endlessly. Whereas, if there was a single crab, it would have easily escaped.

    This is how crabs behave, and in psychology, this behavior of crabs in a bucket is compared with human behavior. Such behavior or trait of some people is termed as “Crab Mentality” or simply “ The Crab Effect”

    This crab mentality is used to indicate the jealousy, selfishness or hateful behavior of people living around us. Such people will always try to hold others from achieving more than they do, in short being the crabs in a bucket.

    crabs in a bucket

    Why Do People Have The Crab Mentality?

    As we discussed, we love to stay in society. But that also means that every person in society can be different with different ways of thinking, different lifestyles, different expectations from life and a different mindset.

    Keep everything aside, but the ‘Mindset’ is the one factor that matters the most. The primary reason for people behaving like crabs in a bucket is the mindset. There’s a popular quote that says;

    “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”

    The mindset is everything that has to do with our behavior and decisions. However, there are several layers to the mindset which plants the seed of crab mentality in the mind. The following three are the reasons for people’s crab mentality.

    • People want to live life the easy way.
    • People are not willing to change.
    • People want to win by pulling others down.

    These three are the layers of mindset which forms the whole mindset itself. If you want to know why some people behave like they are crabs in a bucket, you will have to understand these three layers first. Let us see one by one.


    1. People Are Willing To Live The Life Easy Way

    It is often said that “The art of being happy is to be satisfied with what you have”. But that does not mean that you should stop growing or stop making efforts just because you have convinced yourself that you are satisfied with your current lifestyle and you don’t need anything more.

    Most people often stay satisfied with what they already have. Not because they are really satisfied but because they don’t want to take any extra efforts to make their life any better. They just want to live life the easy way.

    But how does that affect you? Well, people with such an attitude will neither make any efforts to improve their own life nor will they let you do so. Following the “If I can’t do it, neither can you” attitude or simply “Crabs in a bucket attitude”.


    2. People Are Not Really Willing To Change Their Mindset

    You might come across some people who agree that they are aware of themselves, they know that there’s room for growth and they have potential, still, they are not ready to make a move to change things. Just the realization is not enough to change the mindset of society.

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    Just the thought of change is not going to change things, but the actions will. Unless and until people in the society are not willing to change, the mindset of the whole society is going to remain the same. Thus it will always oppose and suppress any individual willing to grow.


    3. People Want To Win By Pulling Others Down

    There are always people around us who want to win or rise above everyone, not by advancing forward but by pulling everyone back. Everyone wants to win this game of life, everyone wants to be successful, but the path we take to get there matters the most.

    But there are some people who of course want to be successful, they want themselves above everyone, but to achieve that they will take every possible effort to pull everyone around them back, they will make sure that the rest of the people do not progress just like the crabs in a bucket in that story we talked about earlier.


    To sum up, I like to call all 3 layers together as “invariable mindset”. Anyone with such a mindset resists any kind of change and believes that their potential and life is predetermined and cannot be changed.

    Such an attitude of people not only affects them but also affects the other people who then become victims of crabs in a bucket.

    crabs in a bucket

    How Do The ‘Crabs In A Bucket’ Mentality Works In Real Life?

    Enough about the analogy, let us take a look at some real-world examples you may have faced crab mentality or you may face in future.

    Example 1: Suppose you are trying to save some money and your friends invite you for outings or dine out. It’s all fine until their ‘Crab mentality’ kicks in and they make you feel guilty when you try to drop the plan.

    Example 2: Suppose you have joined a gym to gain some weight and to be fit. But your friends discourage you by telling you that you don’t need to gain weight. Some may also say that they have gone to the gym but it doesn’t really work and you might give up.

    Example 3: Suppose you are thinking about quitting your 9-5 job and you want to start with your new start-up. But your office colleagues may pull you down by planting insecurities and fear in your mind to prevent you from growing.


    What If You Are The One With The Crab Mentality?

    Being a victim of the crabs in a bucket is bad but being the one with the crab mentality isn’t great either. Even your ‘Crab Mentality’ behavior is gonna take you down along with everyone around you.

    Do you ever wonder what happens to those people who are pulling you down? Do they stay happy and on top of everyone or they just pretend to be above all when they actually aren’t? Well, they end up falling harder than the victims.

    Your “crabs in a bucket” kind of mentality might give you instant satisfaction and that dopamine hit after criticizing the success of others. But where is it actually taking you? Pulling others down is not going to contribute to your success in any way.

    By doing so, you are only comforting your insecurities, fears and not so positive habits. But deep down you are actually denying your incapability to achieve what others are doing or what you wanted to achieve.

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    This nature of crabs in a bucket of constantly pulling each other down results in the collective downfall of everyone in the bucket and here, the people in such a society. And failing as a whole community has its own disadvantages which we will discuss in a separate article.

    That was all about how it feels to be the one with the crab mentality. But you must be thinking ‘What if I am the victim of those crabs in a bucket? What if I am the one who is getting pulled back or held back by society?

    crabs in a bucket

    How To Overcome The Crab Mentality?

    If you are stuck with the crab mentality people, then it’s most likely that you are stuck there for a long time or probably you have always been there. In that case, just thinking about getting out of these crabs in a bucket is itself the first step towards self-improvement.

    It is clear that people around us have a great influence on us and nothing will happen unless they change themselves or you change the group of people you hang out with. Well, clearly the first option is not really in control but the second option is. As someone has rightly said; “If you change nothing, nothing will change”

    Thus, the first step towards the change should be identifying and repelling the negative and crab minded people. If you want to stop being under their influence, you will have to stop being around them.

    Once you are out of these crabs in a bucket, you should get into a bucket where people are opposite of how they were in the first bucket. What I mean is, connecting and being around like-minded people will help you progress towards your goal more efficiently.

    Suppose you wanted to set a habit of meditation but you were not able to do so due to people always discouraging you, now you can join a meditation group or workshop where people will help you to achieve your goal and the environment itself will motivate you.

    Therefore, to overcome this crab mentality, firstly leave the people who are constantly pulling you down and connect with new people who are supportive and like-minded or those who have similar goals.


    What’s Waiting For You Outside The Crab Bucket?

    For all the crabs and the victims of the crabs in a bucket mentality, life becomes too common and less interesting. The whole world seems to progress except the ones in the bucket. However, people may still feel they are above everyone around them.

    But once you get out of that bucket of crabs and rescue yourself, a new life awaits you. A life where you get used to challenging yourself again and again, where you get used to practicing and improving your skills, where you see yourself and everyone around you winning.

    All it takes is a simple will or wish to change your life. If the thought of getting out of the crabs in a bucket ever crossed your mind, it’s time to get up and do what it takes to free yourself from all the resistance. Climb up and free yourself from the crab bucket and be a human.

    crabs in a bucket

    The Bottom Line | Crabs In A Bucket

    That was a lot of philosophy there wasn’t it? Well, sometimes, it is very important that we take out some time in our lives and have a look at what we do or how we do what we do. If there are any corrections required in our lifestyle, it is essential that we make the corrections while everything is under control else it is likely to create nuisance in our life.

    We all must have either experienced or at least witnessed being one of the crabs in a bucket, may it be the one being pulled down or the one pulling. What is important is that we identify if we are one of those crabs in a bucket and work on it. We don’t want to be pulled back and we don’t want to pull anyone back either.

    Lastly, if you have any suggestions, do mention them in the comments section below and check out more of our articles.

    Till then, when life puts you in a bucket, be ants and not crabs!


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