One of my new favorite authors, Jen Sincero (in her book “You Are A Badass”), tells an anecdote about a bunch of crabs in a bowl. Crabs are crawling all over each other, never going anywhere; just being crabby (ha ha). Every once in awhile, a crab begins to find his way toward the top of the bowl – towards freedom – whereupon the other crabs grab his legs and pull him right back down into the crowd.
Sound familiar? Sound like any other social system where the nonconformist is pulled back into the muck of the masses?
Can humans be like crabs?
Are our social systems designed to be crab-like?
Yes, I think they are.
While we may not be getting our legs pulled downward so that we don’t climb so high, we are surrounded by crab voices.
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
1. Anyone would like to look like her.
2. Everyone knows that he’s going through a midlife crisis.
3. Everyone believes that!
4. No one does that anymore!
5. You’re too (old, uneducated, etc.) or it’s too late (to fulfill a dream or goal)
My “favorite” crabs are the ones who justify their lack of initiative while simultaneously putting me down:
1. Well, I am not as smart as you; you have a college education. (Maybe, but I don’t think you need a college education to know that if you spend more money than you make it’s not going to end well).
2. Well, you can do that because you were a dancer. (The fact that I can sit tall has more to do with daily discipline to a practice than whether I took a dance class at age five. Duh).
These types of statements are designed to evoke sympathy for the speaker – thus validating their excuses. Of course, they’ve just also managed to diminish any of your accomplishments.
The hardest thing in the world to do is just to be yourself. But that is only because the world is full of crabs who, despite their posing as free individuals, haven’t ever had an original thought in their tiny heads – and are threatened by those who do.
Because the crabs who do escape the bowl remind the others that their “reasons” for staying in the bowl are just empty and easy excuses.