7 Steps to Overcome the Crabs in a Bucket Mentality in Your Life

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I recently got engaged, and when I shared the happy news with my colleagues, I was shocked to see a flash of anger in the eyes of a few of the single ladies. While they all mouthed congratulatory words, these ladies had dagger eyes and didn’t look happy.

I discovered they had a crab mentality when they actually caused my fiancé to dump me a few days later. My joy caused them to lash out and actively seek to pull me down—like crabs in a bucket that will pull down the one who tries to climb to the top.

Being the victim of crab mentality hurts and it can cause real damage in your life. When toxic people try to pull you down because you reached a success they can’t achieve, it becomes a serious liability to you since they will always pull you down, limiting your options for success. 

Have you experienced this behavior when you succeed or try to succeed in life?

Do the crabs in your life pull you down and keep you trapped with them?

Find out what to do about crab mentality and survive the “if I can’t have it, you won’t either” thinking that some people have.  

What Is the “Crabs in a Bucket” Mentality?

People tend to have a rather nasty instinct to pull down others who are succeeding in life. Psychologists have coined this twisted mentality as “crabs in a bucket” mentality. It’s also called crab theory, the crab-bucket effect, or crab mentality.  

If a fisherman catches several crabs, he can safely leave them in an open bucket as they won’t escape


The crabs claw at each other if one of them tries to climb out, ensuring that none of them will escape. 

In extreme cases, the crabs may even mutilate the crab that got closest to escaping—which we see among people too. If the crowd (crabs) become jealous of someone’s success, they will mercilessly try to bring that person down

Celebrities who are successful often face this challenge with people (who knew them before their success) gossiping and trying to bring them down. 

In the workplace, crab mentality can manifest in painful ways. Your colleagues may sabotage projects where you have been assigned as the team leader since they feel you have “risen” above them. 

In personal terms, you may find that the people in your life become upset and “claw” you back down to their level. It’s often that this happens when someone has risen out of their social class. 

In a word (or a few), crab mentality is about harsh and unspoken jealousy

Are You a Victim of this Mentality?

You may already suspect you are the victim of crab mentality in your life. Perhaps you’ve already experienced the group pulling you down or trying to rip you back from any success you have managed to achieve? 

Crab mentality can manifest as:

Downplaying Your Achievements 

When you succeed at something, your peers should be happy with (and for) you and not try to make light of your accomplishments. 

Have you ever felt that your success is being attributed to luck, favoritism, or collusion when you’ve actually worked really hard to achieve it?

Crab mentality means that your peers will go around believing that you’re not successful or talented (because it infers they aren’t successful).

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Crab mentality can manifest as peer pressure, where people will try to stop you reaching your goal by making you do the opposite. 

Instead, your peers will choose to believe you are a failure so they can feel less of a failure for still being in the bucket when you are climbing out.

So they will try to pull you back into the bucket with rude comments, falsehoods, and by tarnishing your reputation. They will try to discourage you so you stop trying (because they don’t want to be stuck in the bucket alone).  

Peer Pressure 

Having the people in your group choose to point out all your flaws and tell you that you’re not good enough is bound to break your stride. Crab mentality can manifest as peer pressure, where people will try to stop you reaching your goal by making you do the opposite. 

So if you are dieting, your peers may choose to bring yummy cake to the office each day, thereby making you fail at your diet and stay in the flab-bucket with them. 

Actively Sabotaging Your Success

Sometimes, your peers will be so malicious they will actually sabotage your success. You will mysteriously lose the promotion you worked hard for because the boss found some leaked information about comments you had made or a task you didn’t do. 

The crabs in your life will use any method they can to tell others you’re not “all that” and use this to bring you down. They feel threatened by your success, so they choose to rather make you fail. 


When people believe in you, it can really make you succeed when things get difficult. With a crab mentality, your group will continually discourage you.

If you want to go to Disney World, they will tell you all about how the interest rates are going up and you will lose your house if you waste money going on this Disney trip. 

Your dream of being a writer may die suddenly because they laugh at your first attempts at writing. A few harsh comments can cause you to never dream of greatness again. 

Imagine if Josh Groban’s peers had told him that he was a total loser for singing opera? It takes a lot to rise above discouragement and abusive treatment by your peers.

At the 2023 Oscars, it was revealed that singer Lady Gaga had suffered severe discouragement and abuse by her peers as a teenager, with those “crabs” going as far as creating a social media group that focused on haunting her and reminding her how inadequate she was. Rising above that crab bucket took real effort.

Take a few minutes to watch the video below to learn about the four ways to STOP allowing people to hold you back.

7 Steps to Overcome the Crabs in a Bucket Mentality in Your Life

Are you surrounded by crabs and still stuck at the bottom of the bucket, with your peers pulling you down each time you try to rise? 

Crab mentality can be truly abusive, and it can cause you to lose hope, but there are steps you can take to overcome crab mentality and live your best life. 

1. Identify the Crabs in Your Life

Knowing your enemy is the heart of resolving and overcoming conflict. Identify who in your life is bringing you down. Are there people who constantly want you to fail? These are the crabs, and you need to watch out for them

Sharing in public when you are about to enjoy success or if you have reached a goal, fuels the toxic frenzy in the bucket, and the remaining crabs will try to pull you back to their level. Understand that not all crabs even know they are pulling you down. They do so instinctively and totally subconsciously. 

Mentally note whom you can safely share with and who is trying to bring you down, and take precautions against the persons who want you to fail. Avoid them as much as possible. 

2. Self-Reflect on If You Are the Crab

Perhaps you are bringing yourself down? Do you allow doubt to worm into your heart, causing you to give up on projects before they are completed? 

Engage in self-reflection, letting your mind empty as you pack feelings away and look objectively at the events where you believe you failed yourself. 

Was there a reason you failed, and how did you contribute to that failure? If you are the crab, you tend to always make light of your own efforts.

Running yourself down isn’t about being humble, and you may find with self-reflection that you are completely ignorant about how you bring yourself down. 

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Your peers will be so malicious they will actually sabotage your success.

Engage in journaling to help you identify when you are sabotaging yourself and slipping back into the bucket. Don’t pull yourself down just because you feel tangled up with the people who don’t believe in you.

3. Practice Ignoring the Crabs 

Often, the best and least ignorant practice when it comes to crabs is to simply ignore them. Over shorter distances, you can begin to climb out if you still have a few obstacles to overcome.

Ignoring the crabs that are latching onto you, it can become possible to carve out enough breathing space so you can get out of the bucket

Of course, ignoring tempters and antagonists is hard, and they may easily drag you down if you give them your time and energy, so ignore them instead. 

4. One Step at a Time 

When you are struggling to get ahead and have crabs busy pulling you back, it can be very overwhelming, and the urge to give up may become too strong to resist. Instead of looking at how far you still have to go to reach the top, just focus on what you can see ahead of you. 

Just take one step in your journey. Then take another. 

Before you know it, you will have made progress, no matter how many crabs are dangling off your coat tails.  

5. Focus on the Goal 

Focusing on the crabs makes you lose the momentum of your forward journey. Instead of listening to the people in your life who try to hold you back, focus on what lies ahead and the ultimate destination you are trying to reach.

Being goal-oriented means you will generate energy for the destination instead of wasting it on what’s holding you back. 

Crab mentality means the people who try to hold you back also can’t see the goals you’ve set, and explaining it to them won’t help at all. Instead, just plough ahead. 

You can see where you want to go to get out of the bucket they are trying to force you back into. Don’t give up when you can still see the destination or your dream. 

6. Expand into Bigger Buckets

Eventually, when you realize your bucket is filled with crabs who never want to see you succeed, it’s important to dive from your bucket into bigger buckets. 

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Your colleagues may sabotage projects where you have been assigned as the team leader since they feel you have “risen” above them. 

This may mean moving to a different town or city, changing careers, or even relocating to a new country where you can work more on achieving your goals without crabs nipping your dreams in the bud. 

7. Invalidate or dismiss worry

Ultimately, what’s really holding you back (in addition to the crabs telling you how you can’t do anything) is the amount of time and energy you spend worrying about the crabs. It’s vital that you stop worrying about other people, what they think of you, say of you, and what they do behind your back. 

Start living your life as if you are out of the bucket, keep working at getting yourself over the rim and into a new environment. 

Worry is wasted energy. 

No amount of worry will turn crabs into cheerleaders, so don’t try. Instead, focus on your journey, your process, and your ability to do what you set your mind to. 

Final Thoughts on Crab Mentality 

Being a victim of crab in the bucket mentality can rob you of your self-esteem and self-confidence… making you doubt yourself, what you can achieve in life and that you are enough. It also dashes all your hopes and dreams so you stay at the bottom of the bucket with all the other loser crabs. 

You are destined for more, and you are worthy of more. It’s time to kick the bucket, escape, and leave the other crabby people behind.

This starts by identifying the crabs in your life, taking it one step at a time while you look forward to and focus on your goals and future, expanding your social circle to find safe and healthy people, and giving worry the boot.  

Jealousy is like sucking the air out of a balloon. The person exuding jealousy may get a rush from doing so at first, but is merely left with a deflated sense of self afterwards.

Need more help to deal with jealousy? Check out these tips for how to deal with the haters and jealous people in your life.

And if you're looking for more articles about relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:

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