I’m sure many of us have heard the term “cut-throat.” A rather negative adjective, this word describes individuals who will do anything to succeed - essentially “cutting the throats” of others to get ahead. While we may not identify with this harsh term, we may empathize more with the description “crabby”. This comparison to crabs may appear harmless, but the “crab mentality” can be just as unhealthy as a “cut-throat” perspective.

The crab mentality describes how a lone crab in a bucket can pull itself out and escape. However, with multiple crabs, no crab can leave because the bottom crabs pull down those trying to climb out. This seems extremely counterintuitive, but the crab mentality is a common analogy and explanatory model for human society.

The crab mentality can explain many everyday experiences, thoughts, and behaviors. How many times have other people silently wished for us to fail? How many times have we wanted other people to be unsuccessful? The crab mentality is a very common, yet often unacknowledged mindset with significant consequences on happiness and wellbeing. Learning about this phenomenon can allow our metamorphosis from crabs to caring, supportive humans, and in turn, be much happier. In addition, understanding the crab mentality can help us escape any toxic and negative environments created by the crabs around us.

What makes us hold these negative wishes for those around us? Why do we want others to fail? Sam Woolfe, a freelance writer that specializes in psychology and self-development, states that the crab mentality can stem from multiple causes, such as envy, low self-esteem, insecurity, and a competitive nature. We tend to think that these unsupportive thoughts make us happier because in the moment we might feel better: if someone else doesn’t succeed, it means we’re not failing. Yet, while it may liften our mood, this feeling is transient and can fuel a continuous cycle of feeling unworthy and incompetent. Instead of viewing friends as people we can look up to and mutually support, the crab mindset portrays them as competition that we must beat. What’s worse about the crab mindset is that it involves multiple crabs: just as you do with other people, they may do to you. The environment you’re in may want your failure just as much as you want them to not succeed, which could lead to fake support and less self-development.

However, we can all work towards overcoming the crab mentality. If you sense negativity from your current environment, you can distance yourself and find an empowering group to escape the trap. Supportive groups include joining a mastermind group, working with accountability partners for specific goals, signing up for classes you’re interested in, and so much more. These counteract the dangerous effects of the crab mentality by promoting an encouraging and supportive environment, surrounded by passionate people who strive for all-around growth. This positive environment acts not only as a ladder to leave the bucket, but also as a scaffolding to help push you out. The crab mentality may feel like the only option to feel secure in yourself, but being happy for others can actually motivate you and promote your own success and development. With mutual support and respect, we can all climb over the bucket!


1. Image: https://www.kisspng.com/png-beach-blog-clip-art-bucket-clipart-1830810/download-png.html

2. Scott, S. (2019, January 02). What Is the "Crabs in a Bucket" Mentality? Retrieved from https://www.developgoodhabits.com/crabs-bucket/

3. Woolfe, Sam. (2018, July 11). The Crab Mentality: Why Can’t We Be Happy for Other People’s Success? Retrieved from https://www.samwoolfe.com/2018/07/crab-mentality.html