Have you heard the parable about crabs in a bucket?
If you put a crab in a bucket and it can climb out of that bucket, it will climb out. But, if you put two or more crabs in a bucket when one of the crabs tries to climb out, the others will pull it back down. In other words, no crab will ever escape. It doesn’t matter that it’s possible, the crabs will hold each other back from doing so. The crabs are effectively saying “if I can’t have freedom, neither can you.”
Humans do this too.
When an independent freedom seeker tries to claw their way out of the bucket, the group will collectively do their best to keep them down. We see this all the time in the real world; Co-workers, family, and/or friends making snide comments on your “weird diet”, “obsession” with building your business or, your decision to pursue anything different in life.
One 2015 study quantified the impact of crab mentality on performance. The study demonstrated an 18% increase on exam averages when students grades were reported in a way that prevented others from knowing one another’s rankings.
But why do we do this?
Groups of people are institutions — just like the military, churches, and government. Their individual sense of stability depends on keeping people in their place. Even if that stability is based on dysfunction or oppression, order must be maintained at all cost. When you try to move from your ‘correct place,’ you threaten everyone else’s order and they will pull you back down to continue feeling safe.
Sometimes, in our loyalty to the person or group in question, we might willingly surrender or sacrifice our own growth, and as a result — stay in the bucket forever. What if we operated from a different paradigm? A paradigm where we choose courage over comfort. A place where we operate from being unstoppable making the world a place where we step into our dreams rather than surrender them?
The crab behavior is most commonly seen among the closest members of our tribe. If this is happening to you, identify and resist it. Don’t let anyone or group stop you from growing and evolving. The world needs your highest contribution. Don’t ever stop fighting for your freedom.