Do Not Let the Crab Mentality Hold You Back

The crab mentality concentrates on lack, whereas the growth mentality focuses on plenty. You can’t change how others think, so stop trying.
Crab feature

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where family, friends, or work colleagues aren’t as excited about your recent achievement as you are? 

Perhaps you’ve taken up jogging to improve fitness and lose weight. However, instead of celebrating your drive or encouraging your weight loss, your neighbor brings over a huge slice of chocolate cake and spends time bragging about something fun they did while you were out on the trail.

Or you finally sign that new client you’ve been working on for months, only to have your office colleagues act like it’s no big deal.

The truth is we want to feel like the people around us wish only for us to succeed. There will be times, though, when the response you get reflects what’s called the “crab” or “crabs in a bucket” mentality.

This article will define crab mentality, consider its impact, and explore why surrounding yourself with the right people is essential to living a life of positivity and personal growth.

What’s Crab Mentality?


Left to its own devices, a crab placed in a bucket will try to claw its way out and, in most cases, eventually succeed. But if multiple crabs are put in the bucket, they will grab onto any crab that tries to get out and pull it back in.

If the crab keeps trying to climb out by itself, the other crabs will keep pulling it back in. Eventually, the would-be escapee gets tired and may even find its claws broken by the aggressive efforts of the other crabs to keep it in the bucket with them. In the end, none of the crabs get out of the bucket because they’ve spent their time and effort working against each other – instead of working together to achieve their common goal.

Sadly, crabs don’t have a monopoly on this behavior. Many humans exhibit a crab mentality when someone in their orbit begins to achieve some type of self-improvement or success that they can’t achieve themselves. Crab mentality makes people feel insecure, and they begin to think that they fail because others are succeeding. Call it “if I can’t, neither can you” – or, to use the old proverb, “misery loves company.” 

Consciously or not, the way we think, act, and learn is highly influenced by the people around us. If we spend most of our time around people trying to achieve the same types of success, then we are more likely to achieve it too. 

Conversely, if we spend a lot of time around people who make poor decisions in an area of life in which we are trying to improve, then we are at risk of getting pulled back into the bucket.

Crab Mentality vs. Growth Mentality

Working together growth mentality

The crab mentality thinks, “How do I get myself out of this bucket?” On the other hand, the growth mentality asks, “How do we get every crab out of this bucket?”

People with a crab mindset exhibit such actions and attitudes as:

  • Avoid challenges
  • Avoid conscious discipline
  • Believe there is only so much to go around
  • Blame others for failures
  • Feel entitled
  • Hoard information
  • Hold grudges
  • Lack of goals
  • Take credit for the work of others

It’s easy to see where the “crabs in a bucket” result comes from, isn’t it? When a person with a crab mentality sees others succeeding, they get fearful and jealous. Instead of figuring out how to get to the top, they do their best to keep the others in the bucket.

Compare the above to the actions and attitudes of people with a growth mentality:

  • Always learning
  • Clear goals
  • Compliment others
  • Give credit for victories to others
  • Share information
  • Talk about ideas (instead of people)
  • Take ownership

The growth mindset is about helping, sharing, and growing. The only important thing is getting closer to the goal. Not surprisingly, all great leaders have a growth mindset.

4 Ways to Succeed


In day-to-day living, we all run into situations where we risk getting pulled back into the bucket. Here are four ways to help keep yourself heading in the right direction.

1. Don’t Go It Alone

Crab mindsets don’t trust people and feel they must do everything independently. Growth mindsets know that people go further together than they do alone. 

To reduce the chance of developing a crab mindset, try not to undertake significant activities or goals on your own. If volunteering, bring a friend along. When you clean the attic, get some help. Starting a business? Find a partner. 

Each time you ask someone for help, a bit of your ego dies.

2. Learn Constantly

Growth mindsets like to learn as much as possible. Crab mindsets refuse to take in new information. In our bucket analogy, if that single crab had a growth mindset, it would realize after getting pulled down once or twice that something needed to change. Since it has a crab mindset, it keeps doing the same thing repeatedly until it fails.

To build your growth mindset, keep learning. Listen to podcasts. Read books. Watch documentaries. Observe others who are working together and watch what they do.

3. Pay It Forward

If each crab in that bucket had decided to help the others out and trust that everyone would return the favor, they would have all survived – with a great war story. 

Make a conscious choice to help others. It builds stronger character, and you haven’t lost even if they don’t ultimately return the favor or pay it forward.

4. The Law of 33%

The Law of 33% specifies that since everyone has something different to offer, we should spend a third (33%) of our time with the people above us, a third with the people below us, and a third with those on the same level.

People above you show you new ways to be, think, and do. Those below you provide an opportunity to teach and give back. People on your level are just that, peers.

Growth mindsets love The Law of 33%. Crab mindsets, on the other hand, spend a disproportionate amount of time with people at their level, neither learning nor teaching.

Get around people who do things differently than you do. Learn from their successes and mistakes, and pass on what you learn to others.

Final Thoughts

The crab mentality concentrates on lack, whereas the growth mentality focuses on plenty. You can’t change how others think, but you can change your environment. 

Spend most of your time around people who are trying to achieve the same types of success that you are. Above all, keep setting those goals and keep learning. 

Read Next:

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6 Tips for Making Friends in Your Prime

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