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The crab effect: how to deal with people who don’t want you to succeed

Have you ever heard of the Crab Effect?

Imagine a bucket full of crabs that have been caught, and the daring, ambitious one tries its best to climb out of the bucket, to escape – and what do the other crabs do? They don’t give him a leg up, instead they drag him back down. They have the mentality of “If I can’t do it / have it then neither can you.”

They don’t want the crab to escape, to move forwards, to live an amazing life and fulfil their dreams. The same attitude can apply to people – in social situations, in the home, at work and in business – where one person tries to better themselves, or is on the road to great success, and someone in their circle endeavours to pull them back down.

Sadly, there will always be people in life that will want to keep you down: bosses, colleagues, friends, teachers, society, parents even… Some people (for whatever reasons) don’t want you to succeed, even if they say they do.

Experiencing The Crab Effect in daily life

It’s a bitter truth, but many of us have experienced it first hand. You go on a health kick and want to lose weight or get fit, and you find your friends sabotaging it by tempting you with wine and takeaways. You’ve earned a promotion and a pay rise or landed a fabulous new job, and you start to experience subtle changes in people’s behaviour towards you, falling victim to their negativity or jealousy. They say they’re happy for you but you sense otherwise.

You decide to quit the 9-5 to work for yourself, set up a business, pursue your dreams, reach for the stars, or just improve your life in some way, but the crabs try to pull you back into the bucket, to keep you down with them, at their level. They don’t want you to do better than them, to be better than them, to achieve everything this amazing world has to offer. They don’t want you to change or to leave them behind, stagnating.

I’m certain we’ve all experienced it from the other side of the fence too (even though it’s hard to admit), where we’ve felt a twinge of envy or discontent. We don’t want to feel it, but it’s there all the same. When someone has more Instagram followers, a bigger house, a career they love, a successful business, financial freedom, a seemingly perfect life… We know they’ve worked hard for it and that they deserve it, but perhaps it highlights the things we’re not happy with ourselves: the things we’ve not yet achieved, the things we’re lacking, the things we want for ourselves.

We’re only human after all.

Crab effect in life and business

“Other people’s success will not hinder your own – there’s enough to go around for everyone”

There are the people that, despite wanting you to do well (or saying they do), strange happenings take place in their subconscious that make them feel envy, fear or resentment. They don’t want to feel this way, and they know it’s not right, so they acknowledge it and register that it’s something to be worked on.

Then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum who simply, for reasons unknown, just don’t want anyone to do better than them, to be successful, to be happy.

It pains them.

“We all know someone who wants us to do well, just not as well as them”

Why does The Crab Effect Exist?

Why is this? I’m no psychologist, but I’d hazard a guess it’s most likely to do with their own issues. Some people remain trapped in a negative, competitive mindset, where low self esteem or envy results in negativity towards others. Perhaps their own failures, or fears to follow their own dreams leaves them feeling like they’ll be left behind, when everyone else appears to be further ahead than them.

Who knows what goes on in the dark depths of the subconscious. People can often fear change and if they see someone else doing well they may start to question their own lives, which deep down might scare them. Perhaps they don’t want any changes in their perceived hierarchy, or they worry that by you doing better, it means they’ll be going down a peg or two.

When you start following your dreams and reaching for the stars your eyes open wider, you see things differently, you question why you used to do things like you once did, and why so many people are still doing it. You grow, you change, and people might not like this change. They may not understand what you are doing or why you’re doing it. They feel like they don’t know you anymore, and they see you changing, and they know that in turn, your relationship will change. Friendships will change (you may find yourself having little in common with old friends) and relationships may end, but new (more relevant) ones will form.

“When someone tells you it can’t be done, it’s more of a reflection of their limitations, not yours” ~ Anonymous

It’s easy to be influenced by people’s words or actions, especially close friends, family, and trusted colleagues. It can be tempting to take on board their warnings (don’t leave your reliable, safe job, don’t take a risk, stay put, remain in the safety of the group, stick with what you know, don’t get above your station).

Crab effect in life and business

Surround yourself with people who get you

So be careful who you spend time with, who you reveal your plans to, and who you share your success with.

You may find a new tribe who are walking the same new path as you – people who see things differently, people who want to smash limitations and break down barriers, people who strive for change and challenge the status quo. The dreamers, the believers, the doers, the go-getters, the goal smashers.

“We rise by lifting others” ~ Robert Ingersoll

Stay clear of Negative Nancy and instead surround yourself with positive people, creating your own circle of allegiance. Find a network of people who get you (for me this was Girl Tribe Gang), people who will cheer you on through the good times and lift you up through the tough times, people who genuinely want to see you win.

Focus on collaboration over competition (it’s what Girl Tribe Gang is all about). Don’t focus on proving the naysayers wrong – remain gracious, stay focused (eyes on the prize) and maintain your discipline. Work hard, remember your WHY, remember your value and your worth and keep moving forward with determination and tenacity.

“I can and I will – watch me!”

  • Hang around with the Honeybees who value the importance of teamwork, each one contributing altruistically to the overall success of the hive.
  • Dance with the Dolphins, the ones who rely on honest communication to protect each other.
  • Fly with the Canada Geese who enable flexibility in leadership, swapping places when one gets tired or sick, standing in for one another and watching out for the flock as a whole.
  • Or find your pack of Wolves – the tight knit pack who will have your back when danger strikes.
  • Find your your herd, your pack, your flock… and don’t succumb to the crabs in the bucket!

Remember it’s your life, your dream, and you’re ultimately responsible for creating the life you want to live – you’re not responsible for keeping other people happy.

Fran Grant BossingIt Girl Tribe Gang

Work hard, be kind, be honest, but be mindful of those pinchy little crabs, and climb out of the damn bucket – you won’t regret it!

Author Bio: Written by Fran Grant – Blogger and founder of BossingIt!

Fran spent 7 years in the corporate world in IT recruitment before quitting the 9-5 and setting up 2 successful IT recruitment businesses. For a further 8 years, Fran juggled running her business with bringing up her 3 young boys. Despite the flexibility of being her own boss and enjoying financial freedom, Fran wanted more. She wanted to jump out of bed each morning and spend her time doing something she was truly passionate about, something that really set her soul on fire. So with the inspiration and support of Girl Tribe Gang she did it – she closed the door on her recruitment business and created BossingIt! and is now working towards her lifelong dream of becoming a successful blogger and writer.

Connect with Fran: Instagram, Facebook.

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