The term “crab mentality” is a popular phrase among Filipinos and was first coined by Ninotchka Rosca, a Filipina feminist, author, journalist and human rights activist. Crab mentality simply refers to a person’s behaviour of undermining or sabotaging anyone who succeeds or shows potential for success greater than their own.
Imagine this: you are at your local supermarket and you are looking for something to eat other than the last minute impulse order from SkipTheDishes. You reach the produce section and something catches your interest in the aquariums filled with live sea creatures.
The one filled with crabs holds your attention a little longer than the others — there’s something going on other than their predetermined plate — I mean, fate.
You notice how overcrowded the aquarium is, and if you just observe a little closer, you realize that a few of the crabs are making their way to the top while climbing on top of another.
Some make it to the very top of the aquarium, climbing on the backs of others. And while trying to reach the next level, another crab takes a claw to its body and down they go, back to the bottom. Amused, you decide to purchase one to take home and eat.
As you clean up after the delicious meal, you began to think about what you saw earlier at the supermarket and suddenly, a lightbulb turns on. You realize that the image of the crabs climbing and dragging each other down can be synonymous to the greedy and competitive side of human nature.
This is crab mentality — and the effects are detrimental for anyone involved.
From a career perspective, the promising future of a worker at a corporation can plummet while climbing the corporate ladder. Or a small-business owner can suffer from a smear campaign orchestrated by their competitors. And for the victim of slander, it can take a toll on many aspects of their life.
In these instances, an individual’s self-esteem is likely to be diminished given to the extreme beating they took. In addition to that, relationships can often be jeopardized in the haze of crab mentality with individuals experiencing trust issues and isolating themselves from their loved ones. Once clawed, twice shy.
The abusers — the king crabs, if you will — may very well be their own worst enemy. Trapped in a perspective that focuses only on the negative, it would seem as if anywhere they go, nothing is to their satisfaction.
Communication and willingness for conflict resolution are the key ingredients into fixing this shaky foundation.
Being genuinely happy and content with yourself and your station in life, while another individual seems like they are “further ahead” is a good indicator of someone who is positive and self-assured.
Humans are social beings, and we need people in order to adapt, grow and thrive in any environment that we are in. A sense of inclusivity and community is a must.
Let us put a stop to the idea that we must tear each other down in order to attain something as impermanent as social hierarchy. Intead, let us redefine success and focus more on longevity. This shift in focus is better for our own well-being and relationships with others.
This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a rebuttal, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.