Imagine that you are a crab. One day, you find yourself enclosed in a crab trap along with a group of your fellow friends. Good news! The top of the trap is opened! You begin to climb, and when you near the top you sing out to your fellow friends: Come quick, there’s the exit!
But a tragic thing happens. The other crabs dismiss your idea and, instead of joining you to freedom, they begin to pull you down. They dash your hope of freedom. They even try to kill you. While this account may be fictionalized, the behavior is very real; it’s a phenomenon that scientists refer to as crab mentality.
If I Can’t Have It, Neither Can You
Yes, crabs will work together as a group to keep you, the innovator, the change agent, the dreamer from achieving your goal.
When we talk about crab mentality, we’re referring to the mindset of ‘if I can’t have it, neither can you’. It’s fueled by a jealous, spiteful attitude that can do so much harm.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the crab mentality in action. Maybe you’ve shared a dream of starting your own business. Maybe you’ve embarked on a new fitness plan to finally run that marathon that you dreamed about for years.
But as you utter those dreams aloud and begin the climb out of the trap, it happens. Before you know it, they usher their crab-like response:
Starting your own business? Your current job is fine. Why would you want to uproot your life?
A marathon is way too much time. Won’t that affect your family?
You can feel their negative energy as it reaches out and pulls you down, down, until your dreams seem smaller, insignificant. You find yourself caught in the bottom of the trap, again.
You see, humans can act a lot like crabs. If your fellow coworkers or friends see you escape the trap, you’ve proven to them that – It’s possible. You’ve succeeded where they’ve not had the courage to even try. You’ve taken the leap and now stand edified, more courageous and bold. This is the scariest reality for those crabs to witness because it hits a little too close to home – a reminder of their own lack of courage. Frankly, it’s far easier to just knock you down rather than to take any life changing action on their own.
Doubt Kills More Dreams than Failure Ever Will
Do you have any crab people in your life? People who just want to pull you down each time you reach for your dreams? I’m betting you do. Sometimes, we’re able to close the door on those people for the health of ourselves and our dreams. But what happens if those people are family members or coworkers? Individuals from whom we can’t easily separate?
While we may wish that all of the key people in our lives are affirming and positive towards our goals, this will probably never be the reality. For the sake of our dreams, we must be willing to break free from the herd.
The first step to achieving this goal is to realize you will never get the approval of everyone in your life; indeed it would be delusional to believe that you will. In fact, when you launch out toward a dream, you better prepare yourself for more pushback — in the form of opinions, negative stories, seeds of doubt — than ever before. It’s just the way it works.
Back in the day, to remind myself not to seek the approval of others, I had to post around my house on index cards, “For am I now seeking the approval of men or of God?” After years of wrestling with my own dreams, I finally came to the conclusion of just that if they are “my dreams” planted in my heart by the Lord, then they are ”my dreams” and no one else’s. I don’t need to defend or overcome someone’s opinion; I can just ponder it in my heart and know that’s between me and God. You see, the day you start defending your dream is the day you devalue your dream.
I had to realize that most people are simply a product of their upbringing and share the mindset of their circle of friends/social media/influences … so when well meaning people say things to me that are simply not encouraging or helpful, I’ve made a habit of saying to myself, “God bless her, she’s just doing the best she can.” Love the messenger, throw away the message.
Another technique I’ve created over the years to empower me is to latch onto the mantra: “I am in-offensible.” There’s an untouchable power in that phrase. I’m not sure if that’s actually a word, but it’s oh-so-helpful when I want to jab back at people or feel the need to defend or get pulled down into drama. Most of the time, the best vindicator is not to overpower an opinion but to simply do the work to make the dream happen and then the crabs will stop talking. “Work hard in silence: let success make the noise.” ~Frank Ocean.
Thankfully unlike crabs, human beings can make a conscious choice to move forward in obedience despite the opinions of naysayers. We can either let others deflate our dreams like a slow sink to the bottom of the sea, or we can trust that, if our dreams are from God, then they are for a purpose larger than us; we may never know the ultimate good or outcome for which we are used or the ultimate why this side of heaven.
Purposefully making God’s voice louder than the voices of people – easier said than done. But I know at the end of my life, I, me, myself, Julia Burnett, will be the one giving an account, not the crabs in my life, for my own actions and obedience…or inactions and disobedience. I want to hear “well done.”
Julia Burnett is an empowered businesswoman, mother, and talented inspirational speaker. Stop by often for her latest blogs and updates!