The Crabs in a Bucket Effect

Those around you will always try to drag you down when you’re trying to progress

Jose Manuel Miana
3 min readSep 30, 2020
Illustration by the Author

“She reached down and picked a crab out of a bucket. As it came up it turned out that three more were hanging on to it. “A crab necklace?” giggled Juliet.
“Oh, that’s crabs for you,” said Verity, disentangling the ones who had hitched a ride. “thick as planks, the lot of them. That’s why you can keep them in a bucket without a lid. Any that tries to get out gets pulled back. yes, as thick as planks.”

Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals

There’s a lot of stories out there that talk about improving your life and the bravery it takes to dare to change your life. Even I have written some of those.

But there’s a topic that is not being covered enough: Your family and friends.

Yes, the people who love you might also try to drag you down. No, they’re not evil. It’s way more complex than that.

The crabs in a bucket effect or “crab mentality” is a part of the human behavior that makes us try to reduce a person’s self-confidence to ensure they don’t succeed.

Take Your Parents for Example

Just when you finished talking about how much did you love acting at school plays they would give you the concerned look, and immediately after they would tell you to forget about it, that acting wouldn’t make you rich.

They would try to shame you into giving up.

And you were just talking about something that made you happy.

But in their minds, they were saving you from becoming poor, they felt that it would be safer for you if they crushed anything you liked. Because the world will always need accountants, right?

There you have them. The first crabs in your barrel.

Their fear of something bad happening to you, for example, poverty, made them want to drag you down. The first ones to release yourself from, and for some of you, the best crabs you’ll encounter in your whole life.

Then You Have Your Friends, or Better Said, Your Acquaintances



Jose Manuel Miana

I write a lot about cars, philosophy, and whatever I find interesting. Linktree: