Takeaway: Social pressure can cause you to sabotage yourself. There are two main ways this happens. Have faith in the process and identify the source of the pressure to become immune to it.
There’s a really interesting dynamic that happens whenever you do things that are a little different than how other people do them. For example, whenever you make the decision to eliminate multitasking among people who multitask all the time, you’re going to stand out, and you might even catch some not-so-nice comments about it.
You’ll find that there are a few reasons for this and a few approaches you can take in dealing with it.
The crab mentality is an inherent part of human nature that makes people want to attack someone who tries to rise above the group as a whole. You’ll see it in everything, especially if you start doing something differently than others, and it’s a huge source of social pressure in the general sense.
Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket (also barrel, basket or pot), is a way of thinking best described by the phrase, “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” The metaphor refers to a bucket of crabs. Individually, the crabs in the story could easily escape from the bucket, but instead they are described as grabbing at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. (Source: Wikipedia)
What the crab mentality does is create a pressure on you to conform that’s pushed on you by other people. This can come in the form of feeling weird or self-conscious about doing something differently, among other things. This is one of the two things that you have to look out for the most when it comes to the social pressure to do things like everyone else does them.
Tall Poppy Syndrome
Tall poppy syndrome is another characteristic of human nature that you’ll see from people as well, and while it’s similar to the crab mentality, it’s applied differently. The crab mentality generally refers to actively sabotaging someone while they are in the middle of trying to improve. Tall poppy syndrome, on the other hand, refers to how you get treated after you’ve achieved a higher level of status, and in this way it’s sort of what follows after you have successfully navigated a crab mentality attack long enough to stand out from the crowd and see success.
The tall poppy syndrome describes aspects of a culture where people of high status are resented, attacked, cut down or criticised because they have been classified as better than their peers. This is similar to begrudgery, the resentment or envy of the success of a peer.
Tall poppy syndrome is related to what some call “the politics of envy”. (Source: Wikipedia)
If you become successful in any sense, or if you change your life in a way that it becomes more centered around quality and self-improvement, then you’ll inevitably run into situations where tall poppy syndrome becomes an issue. You may find that you have to change who your friends are or who you associate with in a lot of cases because they are simply incapable of being friends with you in the aftermath, regardless of whether you change how you treat them or not.
Also in this way, there is a lot of social pressure on you to “hate on” people who are better-looking, more financially well off or more successful than you. You have to resist this because it only distracts you from working on yourself and improving things that you can control.
Beating the Social Pressure
In the above, we’ve looked at two ways social pressure manifests itself. The main way to avoid these issues and keep them from dragging you down and limiting your results is to simply have faith in the process and in what you’re doing while being careful to watch your back to a reasonable extent for anyone who is trying to actively sabotage you.
We used an example of clearing distractions out of your life above. Suppose you start answering your text/SMS messages a lot fewer times each day in an effort to cultivate empty space. You may have people complain about this and try to convince you that you shouldn’t be limiting how much you text. This would be an example of crab mentality in action since they are actively trying to keep you from improving yourself. You could counter this by having faith in the process that you’re following and understanding that the crab mentality is at play. Also realize that they aren’t necessarily doing this consciously.
Now suppose you’ve made changes and successfully navigated several crab mentality scenarios by relying on your faith in the process and by identifying what was going on with the people who were trying to keep you from improving yourself through social pressure. You’ll eventually hit scenarios where you are being antagonized simply because of your success. This is the tall poppy syndrome in action, and you have to avoid the trap of “dumbing yourself down” so that you fit in with the people who are applying social pressure against you. Have faith in your value and in your process, and identify that the tall poppy syndrome is what’s happening, and you’ll be able to dodge the social pressure and continue along living a life of quality.