Crabs in a bucket is a metaphoric phrase attributing a person or people stopping each other from bettering themselves, often pulling themselves down at the same time.
It is a figurative speech referring to the tendency of multiple crabs in a bucket to sabotage each others escape.
One crab will naturally try to climb out of the bucket, while the other crab – with the aim of saving itself – will grab hold of the other crabs leg, pulling it back down while trying to climb up.
This way, none of them get out of the bucket.
This situation can be observed in many aspects of humans behaviour as well.
Who coined the methapor is unclear, but it is an obvious analogy to the natural behaviour of crabs.
The analogy is also called “crab mentality”, the mentality of a person who rather pulls down other people than build him/herself up.
The analogy is even supported by research, such as an experiment on exam performance done in New Zealand in 2015. It proved that students that did not get to know other students rankings scored 18% higher on their exams than the people who did.
Numerous self-help books and articles also use the metaphor as title, and provide advice in how to better yourself without pulling other down.