Last week, something happened to a friend that had me thinking afresh about the crab bucket that most of us find ourselves in.
What is a crab bucket you ask?
Well, quite literally a bucket of live crabs. Over here, where eating fresh seafood is a way of life, I’d grown up going to a seafood restaurant, and pressing my face against the aquariums or peering down at the box of live mud crabs, picking out my next meal. You can’t eat dead mud crabs, because you’d get food poisoning (at least that’s what I’ve been taught. Flower crabs (as pictured above) are ok dead but taste better when kept alive). So, good seafood restaurants display fresh, live produce or risk not having any customers. Funnily enough, I don’t recall being traumatized at seeing the fish/crab/prawns swimming in the aquarium one minute and served on my plate the next. Must be the Chinese in me you know – we eat anything LOL!
Anyway, I digress. What I was going to tell you about, was this bucket or box of fresh, live crabs. Quite often, there isn’t even a cover over the box or bucket. There is no need, because it is a very rare occasion indeed, when a crab will escape. The other crabs will make sure of that!
Logically, if the crabs were to co-operate, and stand on each others’ shells or ‘shoulders’ (for want of a better word), they could quite easily climb out of the bucket and to freedom. But it rarely happens. What you will see instead, are the crabs, piled at the bottom and grabbing at each other’s legs, ensuring that everyone festers along at the bottom till doomsday arrives.
That, my friends, is the crab bucket that many of us may find ourselves living in, at one point or another.
Quite often, I’ve noticed that when a person in a particular group or community manages to break away and achieve a little success, there will be others who try their utmost to pull them down. The philosophy is simple “If I can’t make it, neither will you!” It comes down to feelings of envy or jealousy. You then either fall back down into the festering pool of crabs, or you hang on to your progress, shake off the detractors and jealousies and by sheer inner strength, continue your climb out of the pool of mediocrity and onto your platform of personal success.
I’ve experienced it myself and am only just recently managing to tear myself away from another bucket of crabs I’ve fallen into, which is why I decided to write about it. To anyone wondering, this is not blog related at all, so there’s no need for anyone to start psycho-analyzing my relationships LOL 😀
You see, when you have been part of something for a while, or growing something, it’s inevitable to attract notice. Suddenly, people who have never showed any attention nor bothered before, pop around to see what’s happening. When they see that you have hacked a path through the weeds, to find a way to get ahead, they go “Hang on, I’m not going to let you go forward because I’ll be left behind!” and they grab you and hold you back.
For a while, I let this happen. When I take a step forwards, I found myself taking 2 steps back because I was being held back. I was being told that I wasn’t worthy, or that I shouldn’t work at being a success because it made others look bad, or I’d bow to threats of disruption. And I felt brow-beaten enough to believe it. I felt that perhaps I should just give everything up and stay in my little mediocre, easy world. I’d come quite a ways from the gauche girl who started out with a little support, and nothing much else, and made something of myself in my little way. But I allowed these threats and crabs to hold me down at the bottom of the bucket.
It was one day when I was thinking about this crab bucket syndrome, that I decided I’d make a break for freedom. I didn’t want to continue being held back – if I had a hand in building something, why was I going to just give it up and toss it out the window at the whims and fancies of others, who know nothing and who have contributed nothing but misery? Why was I allowing others to hold me down or back, from moving forward in my chosen field?
So I’ve begun my climb again to the top. I still have the crabs hanging on, doing their darndest to drag me back down, but now that I’m aware of them and what I can and will do, I am forging ahead. I will cling on as best as I can and I will climb out of my bucket. As for those other crabs, they can fester along with each other and stay back to be eaten, while I make my way up and out.
And the point of today’s post is just to get you thinking.
You may not realise you’re in a crab bucket, but the truth is that many of us are trapped in one. If you are in a social circle of almost equals, you may notice this more although it may be subtle. If you want to move ahead, there may be others who try to stop you, either in a subtle manner, pouring cold water on your ideas and plans, or by outright telling you that you aren’t worthy. It might be said in jest or it might be said in seriousness, but the chances are, it plants the seeds of doubt and you may believe them, and put your plans on the backburner, because you get cold feet.
Perhaps you want to publish a book, or film a video or even to start a blog. If there are crabs around you, the responses you will get will likely range from “Are you sure it’s a good idea?” “Will anyone even read/watch?” “Aren’t there already 200 other people doing the same thing?”
What you should be looking for instead, are people who will help you move on upwards. People who will tell you “That’s a great idea, I’ll help you proof-read your book if you want” “I’ll read your blog!”
When I went through a rough patch, a couple of friends told me that if I wanted to do or create something blog-related, they’d come and support my cause, even though they’re semi-retired bloggers. I appreciated that offer, and that was what I needed, knowing that I had that support whatever I chose to do.
Crabs are best for one thing and one thing only – eating; so don’t let the crabs in the bucket win. Click to Tweet this
So today,take a mid-week pause, and take stock of what’s happening in your life. Are you in a crab bucket struggling to get out? Are you that crab pulling on the legs of others who are climbing up and out?
If you are in the former, what can you change? If it’s a group of people you know, I’d suggest cooling things for a while, or not sharing your plans with these people, because you know that they will only pour cold water over everything and be a wet blanket, and bring you down. They may be good friends, but they may not be supportive friends. Instead, look for other people who might share your interests or plans or dreams, and be a support group for each other. If it’s a partner or a spouse or family, you probably can’t just stay away from them, but you can speak to them firmly about this and, as I say to people, grow a backbone. Stand up taller and straighter and stand up for yourself.
If you are the latter, stop. Seriously, just stop. You may be content being mediocre, but not everyone is. Or perhaps, you don’t want someone else getting ahead of you because that means you are no longer the Queen Bee of your group. Well, some of us have ambition or dreams or plans to get ahead in our life, in our own way. It may not mean we become rich or famous, or that we become the Queen Bee; but it may mean that we chart a progress in our own lives for a measure of personal success, and for some of us, that’s all we want.
Have you ever been in a similar crab bucket situation? How did you get out or how are you planning to?
The first step is recognition of the problem and after that, it comes down to sheer strength of will. It is easier once you identify and accept it. Don’t let yourself, and your ambitions and dreams, be held down by crabs. After all, crabs are best for one thing and one thing only – eating 🙂
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Well said! 🙂 The only crabs worth entertaining are the ones that come piping hot to the dinner table.
Paris B says
Mmmm makes me want to have crabs soon! 😀 Thanks for reading!
Best coated with salted duck eggs!! Yum yum! 🙂
well-said! wishing you the best PB. Don’t let the damn crabs get you down.
Paris B says
Thanks Dommie! No they won’t, now I’ve identified them – shall have them with salt egg! 😉
Eh you like that flavour too? 🙂
Paris B says
Yes! salt egg crabs are the best ever!
Happened to me few years ago. Someone poured cold water on my plan when I shared it with her. She kept telling me from ‘It’s not easy’ to ‘It’s expensive etc’. To cut short the story, I cut her off completely from my life. I don’t need such ‘friend’. She gravitates towards those who give her benefits, and she loves to be the centre of attention. I’d prefer to have few good supportive friends, rather than one who loves to be THE crab that pulls others down.
Paris B says
Yes, there are more of those around than we think! Quite often, because of the discouragement, or rather, encouragement to be a little more conventional, we forsake our ideas and dreams. I hope you went and carried out your plan anyway 🙂 But yes, I keep my social group small. All that matters is that we know where we stand and with everyone else I’m just a hi-bye acquaintance 🙂
Great thought-provoking post and I’m sure it helps to push the reset button for quite a few of us. This is something many of us have probably wrestled with at some point or another in our lives and all too often, we given in and let the crabs win because the bucket represents some form of a comfort zone. It already takes h*ll of a lot of self-will and energy to pull one’s self out of that comfort zone and the last thing one needs are the crabs. And yet, they must be dealt with.
The one thing I also noticed is that the older you get, the more discouragement you receive. It appears that society tends to be more accepting of people taking up challenges or participating in novel projects and ideas when they are still imbued with youth. As you reach auntyhood, you’re supposed to fall into line and not rock the proverbial boat (or in this case, bucket). I sense that resistance the older I get.
However, being the rebel that I am (sometimes with a cause and sometimes, without), that resistance only fuels me to forge my own path. So paradoxically, the crabs sometimes unwittingly play a role in helping me to decide if I should go ahead and take risks or not!
I really enjoyed reading this and don’t let the crabs win!
Paris B says
Thank you Isabel 🙂 You are so right about the bucket being the comfort zone. I think, being Asians, there is that even stronger desire to just not rock the boat and stay within the comfort zone and don’t stand out too much. It’s pretty hazardous if you ask me. And you are also right about age being a factor. I do notice that as well. Yet, it is when I’m older that I’m more willing to take risks that I might not have been brave enough to take when I was younger so it’s a bit of a balancing act for me. But I say we should all do something brave for ourselves at least once in our lives and if the crabs in the bucket want to grab at our legs, well, we’ll just have to cling on and not let them drag us back down! 🙂
Well said! i don’t know if I am in a crab bucket with other crabs right now, but i feel like I’m a crab in this bucket alone, just lazy to make any move!
Paris B says
LOL maybe you’re one big crab just holding on to your comfort zone 😀 Move! Move!
Oh dear, what if one of the crabs is my mom? HAHAHAHA!!!
I wish you all the best, PB. We all have our personal goals, and it’s true to keep those who truly support you close by your side. It’s also good to know you’ve identified the crabs. So, are you going to cook them? Sweet and sour? Black pepper?
Paris B says
You know, I find that quite often the crabs in our lives are often found at home or in family. Much harder to tell them to go away 😛 For now I just ignore them. I’d like some salt egg crabs though. Mmm…
Oh yes, I got a crab pulling at my legs when my baby was younger. I wanted to go out buy something, he said :no la, only baby alone in carseat at the back… Wanted to bring baby swimming, he said worried of chlorine… Want to attend wedding dinner of a friend he said worried baby in aircond room for so many hours… Forever worrying, forever waiting and didn’t offer any help.
But thank goodness I broke that pull. Yay !
Paris B says
Yay! I’m glad you did too! You can’t give up your life just because there’s a baby in it. That’s what I always say (albeit not speaking from experience) 🙂
In the Philippines, we call it crab mentality. That’s pretty much evident everywhere, including the world wide web! I’ve experienced it in Instagram and it’s just sad that there are people who are taking the time just to bring you down. What a waste of life! Thank goodness, my husband is always there to support me and he even said “I’ll help you proof-read your blog” hehe.
Paris B says
Oh Bee, it is very very much more so in the WWW! Behind the anonymity of a computer screen, people are more than happy to be crabs and pull you down. Instagram is both a wonderful place, and a horrible one. I try not to get involved. There’s so much drama in there I didn’t even know about! It’s great to know that you have a support in your life – we all need one!
Bravo, well said! I can totally empathise because I’ve seen this so often at work, it’s such an unfortunate situation, sometimes it’s subtle other times it’s not. I think the key is to focus, focus, focus on doing what we want to do, so that the detractors are put into the place they belong – in the crab basket! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you that you reach the goal you’re aiming for, you deserve it!
Paris B says
Oh yes, work is a place teeming with crabs, I feel. Also to do with kiasu-ism as well! Thank you Skygazer. I hope to come out of this unscathed although I’m sure the scars will remain 🙂
You have a point on keeping your plan a secret in case there are crabs who will clung to you and keep dragging you down. I’m currently have two goals I want to achieve and only few people who know and those are people who I can trust to motivate me to go forward!
I also know that in our society, there are also crabs who grab you from going out of box or be different. They want us to sit in the standard qualities, the average standard so if you act differently, they will trample you down so that you will stay stuck being same mold like the rest. They probably say it’s for our own good but unfortunately, in same time, they are killing our spirit.
Anyhow, I hope you will excel in life, just kick back those people who are dragging you down to stay unchanged!
Paris B says
Thank you Fathin 🙂 And it’s not really about keeping plans a secret but more of knowing who to talk to about your plans. I have realised sometimes that it’s better I not say anything and just do it, rather than say something and have people try to shoot me down. Youtube was one of it. I went and did it without telling anyone, which was scary. I knew I’d have my friends support me but I think in that case, the biggest crab was myself! 🙂 Oh and you hit the nail on the head about our society. So often, I get really upset at what’s going on because I know we all have so much more potential than we show, because of social norms that keep us in our place. Those that choose to break free are then as good as outcast. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.
I think I’m already an outcast in my family and friends. Apparently, I’m too strange or too weird for them to handle, haha. I’m trapped between going for my dreams (which probably getting faded over time, uhuh) and respect for my parents’ wishes.
Paris B says
I’m sorry to hear that Fathin, but while I don’t know if it’ll help, I’d suggest you work on your dreams. We can only follow our parents’ wishes so far (despite their good intentions) and in time, they’ll come to see it your way. Go for it! 🙂
hermit crab counted in this crab pool not? lol! Good luck ah PB, do what you think is best for u and fly sky high cuz it’s ur life afterall! why waste it la with opinions of ppl who don’t matter eh?
You can’t eat hermit crab! :p
Paris B says
Thanks Plue 😀 Hermit crab how la to be counted, it’s a hermit! haha… 😀
This is a nice post!! It triggers us to think about what situation are we in…..
I might be one of the crab in the bucket struggling to get myself out. Do your best to those who matters to you in your life and ignore those that doesn’t. All the best our Queen Bee!
Paris B says
Thanks Cynthia and I’m glad it offered food for thought 🙂 In many ways, I think we are all living in a crab basket. It’s how comfortable or how uncomfortable it is, that’s all 🙂 I’ll be working hard to get away and I hope you will too!
Wow.. what a thought provoking blog ! I am thinking .. the “crab” could sometimes be the one you’re closest to. Not sure if that counts.
Perhaps we should look into their intentions. If they intentions are good, then I could take it. However, if it is bad intentions eg jealously / overly protective , then I would just ignore them.
Paris B says
Oh yes, quite often the crabs are found closest to home or heart. I’ve noticed that a lot and it’s always a sad thing to notice. I’m sure most people who offer their views have good intentions. But often as well, good intentions veil a selfish reason to hold a person back. That’s what you have to look for 🙂
Hellooo Paris! Wow deep thinking post here!! Now that you’ve put a name to the situation, yes I am sure everyone has experienced that at least once in their lives.
Many many years ago, when I was deciding which uni major to go for, a close relative told me to choose accounting over engineering because that profession suits females more. Perhaps he was being very practical, and he surely has good intentions for my future, but me being in the rebellious stage refused his advice, politely, right there right then. I was a bit of a feminist. Anyway, I wasn’t in any bit interested in accounting (even to this day) but I was after some wild scientist dreams. :p
Fast forward a few years, when his daughter chose her major, she was being told that her choice “would not make her much money”, but speaking privately to her, I knew that she has such strong passion for what she chose. I told her to go ahead, follow your passion and whatever you do you will gain something as long as you enjoy doing it. And she did. 🙂 p.s: At this point, I just hope that her father doesn’t come after me with a broomstick if he happens to read this!
On both occasions, he was bearing good intensions you see. And I remain very close to him. 🙂
I never see myself as the crabs in the bucket pulling others down. I believe that if you try something, you won’t regret in life even if it fails later. Who knows, you may even achieve greater than you ever imagine!
I want to share one last story (actually there are many stories!!) about a friend. She is really my inspiration to break out of the crab bucket. She was studying for engineering degree first year, and she discovered that her real passion lies in playing the piano. So she wanted to give up her study and pursue a music degree instead. Surely, she was met with cold water splashes from her own family, but she didn’t give up. Her parents even stopped funding her music studies so she found her way to manage paying for music lessons etc. After a few years, her parents saw her determination and they accepted her choice. I’d say when that day came, there must be a HUGE relieve and happiness on her part. She even went to the UK to pursue her masters in music studies later, and now she owns a music school and is a full time music teacher.
Whenever I come across some cold water splashes (on myself or on others), I would be reminded of my friend’s story and I would brush off those silly comments. Who knows better than yourself, right? 🙂
Paris B says
Hiya Ting, thanks for sharing your experience 🙂 I think sometimes, people who have good intentions don’t realise how crabby they can be because they want what they perceive to be the best for us. Yet, it can hold us back from achieving our true potential, as your friend has shown! It’s always hardest going against family, but sometimes, I suppose, it has to be done for ourselves. Being Asians, I’m sure many of us have done things we’d rather not, because it’s what our parents want – not what we want, eh?
And can I say that this makes so much sense especially in my current life situation LOL. I’ve learned not to long ago that it’s best not to share any ideas that are a work in progress with others too soon. It just goes down the drain the minute I do.
Anyways, lovely post! 😀
Paris B says
Hi Simu, hope things are going better for you now! Sometimes, it’s good to share, but with the right people. Some others can be such wet blankets!