crab in the barrel mentality


If I can’t have it, neither can you.

The Crab in the barrel mentality is a metaphor derived from a pattern of behavior noted in crabs when they are trapped in a bucket. While anyone Crab could easily escape, its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group’s collective demise. It is a way of thinking that says If I can’t have it, get it or do it, then neither can you, and if you try, then I would go out of my way to bring you down.

The Crab in the barrel mentality can be observed everywhere, such as the workplace, families, friends, and places of worship. The moment you try to leave the stereotype or comfort zone, the crabs in the barrel are always there to bring you down to their level. It is not a great place to be in as you naturally expect people in your clan to be happy for you, but they usually are not.

They begin to call you names such as you are a sell-out, you sold your soul to the devil, you have changed (seriously how are you not supposed to change? ), that is the hallmark of growth. This behavior eventually leads to envy, jealousy, hatred, and other harmful actions against the successful individual. It can be exceedingly hurtful as you notice the behavior from people very close to you, your family members, and friends. They smile in your face but backstab, gossip and insult you in your absence

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.- John A. Shedd

Author Steve Pressfield, in his very great book, The War of Art, share some very great insight about the crab in the barrel mentality: