If you’ve ever felt like other people are holding you back – either from financial independence or goals in general – you might be surprised that you’re not the first person to feel this way. In fact, it is this is so common it has a name – crab mentality – it’s likely pulling you down more than you realize, and it’s part of the reason I’m so into Stealth Wealth.
Not to worry, I’ve been there and I have some tips on how to break free.
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What Is Crab Mentality?
Crab mentality refers to when your friends and/or family hold you back – consciously or unconsciously.
In a weird evolutionary path, crabs trapped in a bucket will stop high-performing crabs from crawling out, to ensure a collective failure instead of letting low-performer crabs be left behind. It’s well studied in academia and hilarious to watch once you know what’s going on.
Are Your Friends Holding You Back?
So crab mentality is when the people in your life hold you back from going for your goals. But it’s not always malicious. It could very well be well-intentioned or even unintentional.
Intentional Crab Mentality.
This one is insidious, and I hope that you don’t fall in this category. Sometimes people’s friends and family just hold them back on purpose.
It could be because they don’t want you to succeed, or it could be because they don’t want you to fail – so much so, that they won’t let you even try. Most of the time it’s the latter so you could call it well-intentioned, but either way – it holds you back.
I suffered from this when I first started getting into owning rentals. Everyone in my family was doing everything in their power to stop me. They were worried I would fail so they tried to stop me from trying. Fast forward to early retirement and same thing. I powered through it 2 times and my life is infinitely better for it.
Unintentional Crab Mentality.
Most likely, your friends and family think they have your best interests at heart but are in fact enabling your own self-sabotage with some version of “YOLO” like:
- Geez, you can come out for one night, it’s not going to kill you.
- Just live a little, you can work on your stuff tomorrow.
- Come on, do it for me.
- That’s it. I’m picking you up.
You see where this is going. I get it, because I’ve definitely let myself get peer pressured to go out partying when I should have been studying back in university, and I’ve probably peer-pressured my own friends to act against their better judgment too.
In fact, my wife and I occasionally get addicted to TV shows, and egg each other on to watch “just one more” episode.
That’s why we can’t have Netflix. Crab mentality goes deep I guess.
How Crab Mentality Hurts Your Financial Independence.
Crab mentality can hold you back in so many areas of your life:
- Getting in shape
- Learning or upgrading your skills
- Creating healthier habits
- Starting a business
I don’t want you getting held back in any of those. But what I really want you to focus on is your money.
Growing your wealth takes planning and action so here are some ways that you can let yourself get held back when it comes to your money:
- Spending too much. If you want to grow your wealth, you have to learn to save. Period. If you’re letting yourself get talked into going out every night, or spending too much in general, you’re definitely holding your financial independence back.
- Not earning more. In most cases, earning more money starts with upgrading your skills and getting a better job. If you’re not dedicating the time or investing the money to do those things, you’re holding yourself back.
- Being scared of investing. This one hits close to home. Everyone can tell you a horror story about someone’s investment portfolio. Never mind whether it’s even true or not. When you hear of all the bad things that can happen, it’s easy to throw in the towel before you even start. DON’T FALL FOR IT. Start small, learn as you go, and you’ll be fine.
Read: Getting into Investing Simply
How To Overcome Crab Mentality.
If you feel like people are pulling you down, here’s how to rise above.
1. Don’t advertise your goals just yet.
You don’t have to tell everyone about all your goals and dreams. If you feel like you won’t be supported or understood in what you’re trying to do, just keep it to yourself! It’s better than wasting energy defending what you know is best for you to a bunch of people who have no skin in the game.
To be honest, you can’t even get mad at the other crabs. Nine times out of ten they think they’re looking out for you. They assume you’re relatively happy where you are (or at least you should be) and don’t want you to risk it.
That’s what happened when I bought my first rental property. They took every opportunity to tell me how stupid I was, that it was going to blow up in my face. I love my family, and I couldn’t take it personally. It was just well-intentioned crab mentality. They were successful through traditional means and they wanted the same for me. I can’t hold that against them.
So what did I do? I went ahead with buying that rental property – which has been giving me consistent rental income every since, and I’ve bought several others without burdening my family with the details.
Actually, I’m fully committed to stealth wealth. I’ve written about why extreme stealth wealth is the way to go, my guide for jumping into it, and I was even interviewed by Forbes on the topic. Yep. I’m committed to stealth wealth, and let me tell you – because of it, NO ONE is holding me back.
2. Get Hella motivated.
When you’re super motivated to reach your financial goals, crab mentality can’t stop you. Literally frame every decision you make as “will this help me reach my goals?” and it’ll be so much easier to say hell no when someone tries to hold you back.
And yes, you can do it with money. I literally ask “how does this compare to my dream?” before every purchase and there have been so many times I’ve walked away from wasting my money.
Seriously, I have a group of friends who earn a decent income but are not motivated enough for financial independence. It sucks because they have no problem dropping a hundred bucks on a random dinner and want to go out regularly. I love hanging out with those guys, but if I wasn’t motivated by my own goals I’m pretty sure we’d be constantly dragging each other down financially.
Oh well, I refuse to be a crab in the bucket. We’re still cool, but when it comes to my finances I don’t waiver.
3. Create bulletproof habits.
Motivation is nothing without habits and vice versa. Start building routines and habits that support your goals. That way, if you ever give yourself a day off, it’ll be easier to jump back on.
One cool win related to having bulletproof habits is that you can always let them pull you out of the crab bucket. For example, when it comes to going to bed on time, I’ve been pulled down by crab mentality and I’ve been a crab myself. It’s way too easy to convince me to stay up late, and then I harass others to do the same. Sorry, everyone.
But I do have one friend who’s so consistent about leaving on time that I’m almost jealous. Her excuse – it’s just part of her routine. Ah. she makes it sounds so simple.
4. Have a good “out”.
If you feel that your friends and family always thwart your plans to reach your goals, be prepared! Have a good “out” for why you can’t go along with what they’re asking. Make one in advance.
For example, my wife and I have a good excuse for why we don’t go out for dinners that don’t make us look like total cheapos (which we totally are) and it actually earns some major respect.
In our case, instead of being tempted to go out, we tell our friends that we’re saving up for a vacation or something else impressive and then invite them over instead. This trick has saved us tons of money. My friend from the point above just says going to bed early is her routine.
When you have a meaninful “out” that you can articulate easily, crab mentality won’t pull you down. Nothing else is needed.
5. Don’t play victim.
Be honest with yourself. Is it your friends and family who are holding you back, or is it you?
Sometimes it’s just so easy to blame other people that we absolve ourselves of even trying. It may be true that someone out there has pulled you down at one time or another, but are you the one making a pattern out of it?
There’s a good chance that where you are has little to do with other people.
Take a look at your life and ask yourself what’s in your circle of control. When have you let crab mentality pull you down instead of sticking up for yourself? Have you been preparing and bettering yourself in order to take opportunities? If you’re blaming all your problems on someone holding you back, there’s a chance you stopped trying.
6. Don’t be a crab to others.
And lastly, break the crab mentality cycle. If you see someone is trying to achieve something, help them rise up and don’t pull them down.
This might take some getting used to. Remember, most of the time crab mentality is unintentional. when people do it, they usually think they’re helping or protecting you. So be careful to not pull someone down because you think you’re protecting them.
Ever since I’ve felt “pulled down” for my choices to start building my wealth through real estate, I’ve been very conscious to not be critical of other people’s dreams. If someone tells me they want to start a business, start investing, or go for a better job, I get genuinely excited for them and ask them what made them go for it and what steps they’ve taken so far.
It’s natural to have concerns but ask yourself if they truly need to come out. And if they do, express them in a way that won’t pull that person down when they’re truly pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
TL;DR on crab mentality
- The crabs in a bucket phenomenon is related to crabs literally pulling each other down when one crab tries to escape captivity.
- People do it too. When you start becoming a high performer, people around you may try to pull you down – intentionally or unintentionally.
- To avoid getting pulled down by crab mentality, get motivated by your goals, create awesome habits to support them, and maybe don’t overshare your goals until you feel settled in the right direction.