News & Blog
THE CRAB BUCKET
Dear Ones –
A few months ago, I was on stage with Rob Bell — minister, teacher, family man, great guy — and a woman in the audience asked him this question:
"I'm making all these important changes in my life, and I'm growing in so many new and exciting ways, but my family is resisting me, and I feel like their resistance is holding me back. They seem threatened by my evolution as a person, and I don't know what to do about it."
Rob said, "Well, of course they're threatened by your evolution as a person. You're disrupting their entire world view. Remember that a family is basically just a big crab bucket — whenever one of the crabs climbs out and tries to escape, the other crabs will grab hold of him and pull him back down."
Which I thought was a VERY unexpected comment to come from a minister and a family man!
Rob surprised me even more, though, as he went on to say, "Families are institutions — just like a church, just like the army, just like a government. Their sense of their own stability depends upon keeping people in their correct place. Even if that stability is based on dysfunction or oppression. When you move out of your 'correct place' you threaten their sense of order, and they may very likely try to pull you back down."
And sometimes, in our loyalty to family (or in our misplaced loyalty to the dysfunction that we are accustomed to) we might willingly surrender and sacrifice our own growth, in order to not disrupt the family — and we will stay down in that crab bucket forever.
Friend groups can do this to each other, too. My friend Rayya Elias was a heroin addict for many years, and she saw the same phenomenon at play with her friends in the drug world: One junkie would try to get clean, and the others would instantly pull her back down into addiction again. I've seen it happen, too, when friends try to sabotage another friend's efforts to lose weight, or quit smoking, or stop drinking, or get in shape. (The mentality being: "If I can't out of this crab bucket, NOBODY is getting out of this crab bucket.")
When I first got published, I was working as a bartender, and when I shared my happy news with co-workers, one of the managers said, in real anger, "Don't you DARE go be successful on us. That was not the agreement." (And, silently, I was like: "The agreement? What agreement?") That person never forgave me, actually, for aspiring to climb out of that crab bucket.
Not every family (or family-like grouping) is like this, of course. Some families encourage their members not just to climb, but to soar, and sometimes even to fly away. That is true grace — to want somebody to grow, even if it means that they might outgrow you.
But others will try with all their might to hold you back, to pull you down into the crab bucket again and again.
If that is happening in your life, you must identify it and resist it.
Don't let them stop you from growing.
As Rob Bell said beautifully: "If people love you, they will want you to grow. If somebody doesn't want you to grow, you can call their feelings about you by many names…but you cannot call it love. You can call it fear, you can call it anger, you can call it control issues, you can call it resentment…but nobody has ever held anyone back because of love."
Dear Ones, if it's time for you to grow, you have to grow.
If it's time for you to change, you have to change.
If it's time for you to move, you have to move.
If it's time for you to finally crawl out of that crab bucket, start crawling.
Holding yourself back in order to make other people happy will not serve you, and — ultimately — it will not serve them, either.
Be loving, be compassionate, be gracious, be forgiving. But if it's time to be gone, be gone.
(And needless to say, if you are the crab at the bottom of a bucket who is holding another crab back from escape, it might be time to summon up all your love and all your courage and gently, generously, LET GO. It won't be easy, but it might be the most important thing you ever do.)
Good night, loves.
DEAR ONES –
Question of the day: Are you allowed to exist?
I've been working on my new book about creativity, and I've been thinking a lot about the idea of ENTITLEMENT — and how important it is for the creative process.
I recognize that the word “entitlement” has dreadfully negative connotations, but I think there are times when we really need a bit of entitlement, and when it can be put to good use…because you will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try.
Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and believing that — merely by being here, merely by existing — you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.
The wonderful poet David Whyte has a fantastic name for this sense of creative entitlement. He calls THE ARROGANCE OF BELONGING.
Whyte claims that — without "the arrogance of belonging" — you will never be able take any creative risks whatsoever. Without it, you will never push yourself out of the suffocating insulation of personal safety, and into the frontiers of the beautiful and the unexpected.
The arrogance of belonging is not about egotism or self-absorption. In a strange way, it’s exactly the opposite; it's a force that will actually take you OUT OF YOURSELF and allow you to engage more fully with the world. Because often what keeps you from living your most creative and adventurous and expressive life IS your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection).
The arrogance of belonging pulls you out of the darkest depths of self-hatred — not by saying, “I am the greatest!” but merely by saying, “I exist.”
So…I want to ask you today: How entitled you feel to exist?
How entitled to do you feel to create, to invent, to change, to engage with this world, to move, to grow, to take risks, to have a voice and a vision of your own?
Has there been a particular moment in your life when you stood tall and brave in your own existence at last?
Was there a moment in your life when you finally allowed yourself to embrace the arrogance of belonging?
If you've never claimed your existence — never claimed your belonging — what would it take to do so?
What would you do with your existence, if you ever allowed yourself to fully take ownership of it?
What would you be (and what would you make) if you were allowed to fully exist?
OK, I'll go back to writing now!
Sending love…and ONWARD,
Dear Ones –
We get a lot of new people joining this Facebook page every day (thank you for joining our little community, new folks!) so once a week, I try to give everyone all the information they might want, about other places on the Internet to find me.
So let’s run down the list:
My website is https://www.elizabethgilbert.com. There, you can find information on all my upcoming events, see videos, read my thoughts on the writing process, and download book club guides to my books!
I have an email newsletter (where I always reveal my big news first, see exclusive home videos, and sometimes run contests, when I remember to.) You can join the newsletter by clicking the icon on the left of this page called "LizNews" and signing up. (You can also sign up for LizNews on the homepage of my website.)
You can follow me on Twitter, where I basically just goof off, at: https://www.twitter.com/GilbertLiz
You can follow me on Instagram (which I just started because some 14-year-olds told me to) at:
You can follow me on Pinterest (that addictive crack house, whose vortex I try not to tumble down too often because it’s a gorgeous suckhole) at: https://www.pinterest.com/lizgilbertpins
And if you EVER want to buy to buy signed copies of ANY of my books, you can buy them online through the shop, Two Buttons, that I run in New Jersey with my husband (otherwise known as “that Brazilian guy”.) The link is right here: https://twobuttons.com/shop/
That is all, my dears!
(And yes, in all these various social media forums, it is actually ME doing the posting, the chatting, the responding, the pinning, the time-wasting. I like it. It’s fun. I like hanging out with you guys. I’m glad you like hanging out with me. Also, I have no children and my husband cooks, so I have plenty of extra time on my hands…)
Thanks for everything!
ROCK ON WITH YOUR BAD SELVES!