Crabs in a Bucket

Trapped. You invest all your energy to position over the competition, giving yourself the best chance at sunny skies and fresh air. With the goal plainly in sight you make your final ascension towards your impending freedom.

Teetering precariously on the lip of success unaware of what lies in your rearview mirror, a fellow competitor has you in their claw. It’s their intention to drag you right back to where you started.  


I first learned the expression “crabs in a bucket” a.k.a “crab mentality” when living on the tropical island of St Maarten; a half-Dutch, half-French oasis that serves as the main hub to the Caribbean. The locals would collect a number of beach crabs and place them in a bucket to be held for crab racing – a popular gambling game involving a circular track carved into the sand. Interestingly, they noticed a unique behaviour from within the bucket. Unsatisfied with their capture, the crabs would attempt a jailbreak. However, as one crab was close to making their way out, another would pull them back down – suffering demise from the hand of their own. They related this to the Caribbean people and frequently use this turn of phrase to describe the way society resists one’s attempt at self improvement.  


For some bizarre reason, it is common occurrence for our friends, family, and social circles to reject our success.  There are several ways they can do this, so it’s important thing to recognize because the insidious effects can be disastrous to your progress.


Let me give you an example. Fresh out of College the race was on.  Many of my fellow graduates had planned for immediate immersion into the professional world. I, on the other hand, decided to bide my time and wait for something more inspirational to take me from greenhorn to seasoned pro.  A little over a year later, I found that inspiration in an entirely different landscape; working and living on the sandy beaches of St Maarten.  I had found a way around the conventional approach to gaining industry experience, and not only was it life-changing and fun, it gave me a career boost ahead of where my colleagues were. One might think that they would commend my good fortune? Not all of them, not even close.  My choice to take a path less traveled was met with disapproving insincerity and undermining tongue-in-cheek expressions. These unsettling responses were coming from people I trusted and considered close friends.


Why is it that almost all of us can recall an event where we were disappointed with the reactions of those close to us after hearing our good news or standout achievements?


Crabs in a bucket is in many ways, human nature.  


I want to clearly state that I’m not telling you to drop these friends like a bag of sand and go in search of greener pastures. The purpose here is to make you aware of a human condition innate to many of us soft shelled crustaceans; that there’s a tendency for some people to impede others when they consciously or unconsciously allow jealousy, envy, or competitiveness to cloud better judgement.  In response, we Unsubscribers need to make allowances for this by having an expectation of it, and then make mental preparations to ultimately forgive and deflect.


Next time you feel the cold unsupportive claw of a friend, family member, or acquaintance, remember their reaction is human. Take it in stride and use it to bolster your own self confidence that the direction is right for you.  Whatever it takes, move onwards and upwards with a harder shell for discouragement and find your way out – unless it’s a bucket of Corona, then maybe stay for one before heading to the beach.

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