Crabs in a Bucket

Connie Omari

Connie Omari

I was recently reminiscing…  remembering a childhood vacation where along with my parents and brothers, I visited the Outer Banks.  We booked a hotel, ate great food, and enjoyed a variety of child-friendly festivities.  But irrespective of all of the fantastic features of this trip, one of the most memorable experiences that I can recount centered around…you got it…crabs!  At that young age I had no idea why this memory would be so strong, but years later, I imagined this experience over and over as the overall concept of what it revealed has become painfully clear.  It introduced me to the concept of crabs-in-a-bucket – a brutal, brutal reality.  Let’s revisit my childhood experience and see why we should all be on the lookout for crabs!

It was a hot, sunny day.  My mother knew that it was going to be very hot later on so she encouraged us to go to the beach early so that we wouldn’t get sunburned later on in the afternoon heat.  Thrilled with the beauty of the water, I couldn’t wait for my mother to lather me up with sunblock, put on my sunhat, and wade in the water on the shore.  After picking up seashells along the shoreline (I used to collect them), I became distracted by a boat near the dock.  This boat was filled with nets and little buckets and people surrounding them.  Fascinated by this, I tried to get as close as I could so that I could see what was going on.  As I moved closer, my mother noticed what I was doing and came to get me and yelled at me for being so “nosey!” However, before she could finish her sentence, the person responsible for the ship said “That’s okay. Let her look inside!”

Thrilled to be able to see exactly what I had been trying to sneak and observe the whole time, I looked inside the bucket and there they were. Crabs!  And a lot of them!  What I noticed most,  however, was that the crabs were trying to get out of the bucket but none of them were able to do so.  Every time a crab climbed to the top, the other crabs at the bottom of the bucket would try to pull them down.  This happened over and over again, and I began to feel sorry for the crabs that apparently wanted out but couldn’t get out because of the strength in numbers of those beneath them who were unable to climb the walls of the bucket.  The owner of the bucket, having awarded me the opportunity to see the crabs, politely placed the lid on the bucket, smiled at me, and asked, “Are you happy now?”  I gave him a cheesy grin and replied “Yep!  Thank you,” and ran back towards my mother.

Though that was the only time that I have literally seen crabs in a bucket, my life has been filled with many “crabs-in-a-bucket” experiences.  I have noticed that in areas of my life, where I’ve been at my absolute best, those closest to me have been my biggest barriers as they have tried to constantly pull me down.  This has been experienced in the creation of my new family dynamic, pursuits that I have endured during my academic pursuits, and continuous growth that I experience within my professional development.  What many fail to realize is that instead of being helpful to those at the top, and asking God to also grant those at the bottom the ability to excel themselves, they try to interfere with another’s upward mobility for fear that they will be outdone.  As a result, these “crabs” remain at the bottom.   It is almost as if the more successful one gets, the more others try to “bring them down.” Like many others, the childhood “crabs-in-a-bucket” experience has become an overall theme for my life.

Except one thing…

Unlike the crabs in a bucket, I am able to get out of undesirable circumstances.  I am aware that God has bestowed a plethora of gifts and talents on me, and I refuse to succumb to the pressures of the other crabs that wish to interfere with my growth.  I believe that we all have the potential to be the crabs on top if we choose to do so, but our overwhelming jealousy, greed, fear, etc. keeps us from doing so.  We have to learn to look critically and honestly at our own circumstances and strive to be the best crab that we can be.  After all, in a way we are all crabs-in-a-bucket.  However, we have a choice to decide which crab we want to be.  So, ask yourself: are you going to be one of the few crabs at the top, or are you content with being one of the many crabs at the bottom?


Psychotherapist |

Connie Omari is a psychotherapist, blogger, and author of Sacred Journey to Ladyhood: A Woman’s Guide Through Her Write of Passage.  Connie uses her spiritual, educational, professional, and international experiences to uplift women around the world.  For more information on Connie and her empowerment resources, please visit her at or