The Crab Bucket of Life


Have you ever noticed the more successful you become, and the more things go “your way”, that some family, friends and co-workers will do and say things to sabotage you and keep you down.
This happens all of the time but often we aren’t aware of it.

When I am working with a client who is experiencing sabotage within their organization or their family, I share my “Crab Bucket of Life” theory with them to help them navigate the emotional pain they are feeling from being denigrated by others. It goes like this….

We all know what a crab looks like.  They have a shell and six long legs.  They use their legs to grab and hold onto things.  Their legs propel them forward on their journey across the beach.

Crabs are social creatures. They travel around on beaches in biomasses.  If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and watch them, you will see that they will begin to crawl on top of each other to get out of the bucket and back to the beach. They begin to use their little pincher legs to crawl up the side of the bucket.  If you watch closely you will see that the one successful crab who makes it to the top of the bucket – his front leg is positioned on the edge of the bucket and he is ready to propel himself over the side to freedom- gets pulled back down into the bucket by his crab friends.  The other crabs reach up, grab his leg and pull him back down into the bucket with them. The poor crab is lost forever in the swirling vortex called the “Crab Bucket of Life”.

In our own Crab Bucket, often those trying to keep us down are unaware of what they are doing.  These behaviors are usually unconscious and spring forth from their feelings of fear and jealousy.  Fear that they aren’t good enough and do not measure up.  Keeping another person down helps them feel better about their position in life.  Some are also jealous, coveting our success.

Our first step in dealing with this is to recognize that it is happening to us. To realize that we are being kept down in the crab bucket.  Some people who claim that they care for us or our future can be the largest crabs in our bucket.

Our second step is to remember that the best defense is an offense.  It helps to keep a professional but cordial distance from those crabs in our lives.  Don’t let them get close enough to pull you down and sabotage you.

The third step, if you are feeling like you have been pulled down, is to ask yourself every few minutes during the day, “Am I in the crab bucket or out of the crab bucket?”  Being inside the smelly crab bucket feels like drama and emotional chaos.  It is hard to breathe and you find yourself not thinking clearly.

If you are living outside of the crab bucket you smell the clear, crisp ocean air and see the beautiful blue skies.  Living outside of the crab bucket is emotional freedom and it feels so good.

Daily we can strive to live and operate in the drama-free world that we find outside of the crab bucket.
Here’s to your continued success on the beach of life!

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