By Akin Ojumu

There was a time in my life when I genuinely believed that everyone in my orbit was watching my six. Back then, I naively thought that if anyone was family, schoolmate, workmate, or churchmate, they must surely have my back. Well, that was the case until I got stabbed in the back, many times. I’ve since realized that many of these people, whom I thought meant well for me, are nothing but malevolent crabs.

Crab mentality, aka crabs in a bucket, is a metaphor for the behavior of crabs which when caught and kept in a bucket would not allow any of the other crabs to escape. When any tries to escape, the rest pull it down (shared joy in misery).

Family members won’t ordinarily wish against your success. But what happens in the family member’s mind is the fear that you may jump ship when you hit the big time? So, they try to tear you down.

It’s a similar mindset in that bloke on your high school alumni project? Your sizable monetary donation towards the project should ordinarily be a good thing, right. But not to the small-minded bozo who is scared you’ll get all the accolades because his own contribution is a tad smaller. His sense of insecurity generates irrational bitterness towards you and his birdbrain shoots off the sad chemical, cortisol. Maliciously, he recruits likeminded crabs to join his crusade to besmirch you.

Here’s what I do to stay above the fray and avoid being pulled down by the spiteful crabs in my sphere.

1. Staying Persistent
One way to stay above the pull-down syndrome is to persist in one’s chosen course of action. When others feel negatively about your course, you are the only person who knows if it is right or wrong. Of course, you may genuinely welcome pieces of advice and suggestions. But if you have to listen to what others want you to do, you will remain pulled in the crab bucket.

2. Keep Adding Value
Only when you lack confidence can you be pulled down. To be confident, you have to be deliberate about adding value to yourself, learning new skills, mastering old skills, etc. If you don't add value to yourself, you virtually remain average and susceptible to being pulled down.

3. Being a Force for Good
When we know that there is a purpose to our actions, it's harder to pull us down. By adopting and adapting healthy habits into our lives, we influence others. These people who look up to us serve as an extra impetus to not be pulled back into undesirable circumstances.

4. Remaining Passionate
If you've chosen a particular course of action and identified it as your path, you need to persevere in pursuing it. When you constantly change course or adopt every piece of advice that comes your way, you open yourself to being pulled down. Remember, weigh and accept all meaningful advice and jettison advice that doesn't serve your purpose.

5. Always Persevering
It’s almost inevitable; you are going to fail sometime. At work, in your family life, etc. Though this may sound a bit cliche, there are always lessons in failure. Instead of brooding over the failure and allowing others to affect you negatively, you may double down, reflect and identify the underlying causes of the failure. When you don't give up in failure, you raise your respectability among peers and family.

While some people have a generally positive disposition, this is rare. Most would rather everyone shared the misery. To not be a person who inadvertently pulls down their loved ones or peers, you need to start understanding your deeper nature. Having a genuine sense of curiosity and happiness for the paths and journeys of others (even though there is no direct benefit for you from that) may be an added way to start honing your positive mindset in this regard.

Borrowed from the article: “When Others Hold You Back,” by Loretta G. Breuning Ph.D. published in Psychology Today.


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