Crab Mentality among Filipinos

Many times people get accused of possessing the Filipino negative trait of crab mentality. It is  a state wherein people act like crabs when put inside a basket or a container, pull each other down for them to get out from it. One must further dissect the magnitude of the problem and reasons behind it to distinguish ways on how to deal with it and perhaps minimize it.

One of my Facebook friend said that crab mentality among Filipinos is already a disease. The way she said it, it seems crab mentality can no longer be cured and is highly contagious. It is quite true because based on my observation, we can notice crab mentality everywhere.

One time I made a comment in Youtube about one issue that lead some Filipino netizens to react. I was expecting they will provide further valuable insights about what I said. I have no problem with others disagreeing with my thoughts, given that everyone is entitled with their own thoughts. Suprisingly, one of those who commented, criticized my use of the English language, instead of the tackling about the issue. To be honest, my ego was touched and laid more points about the issue to help divert the flow of the discussion away from my language "deficiencies" ( Let me defend a little on this. :-) I may not be perfect in English grammar but I can say, I am above average compared to others. Hehe. Did it sound like crab mentality? Hehe.) The discussion lasted for days and I was getting irritated by it. I was about to take the situation personally to stop that person, but I just kept my calmness. For me, the clear intention was to put people down while oneself superior.

I observed some Filipinos do not like people who are too good to be true. Before appreciating someone, one notices the negative traits of that person. For example, when I was teaching for four years, people somehow noticed how I taught but some people dismissed my capacity, since I came from a small city and was relatively young. To be fair, sometimes I get annoyed by these egoistic people and when they start uttering some words, one could easily differentiate what is non-sense from which is not. Forgive me if I sound self-righteous but I am not. I just do not waste my time on people who engage themselves on trash. 

There are many other situations I know a lot of Filipinos can share. Crab mentality seems to be part of the lives of Filipinos. EGO. That is reason why crab mentality exists. This is when our ego can not accept our deficiencies and insecurities that one try to find ways to cope with the feeling of anxiety as a result of it. This anxiety is turned outward by showing negativity to others. However, the question is not really about why crab mentality exist, instead why it is common among Filipinos. Is it because we Filipinos have a lot of insecurities? Quite interesting.

Imagine yourself living among 100 million Filipinos. Does this fact make you feel secure? Everywhere you go there is a constant struggle to acquire the limited resources the country has. Take as an example in job application. Just for one available paid job position, hundreds or thousands line up to get it. In different situation, being in a large crowd put an immense pressure to perform better. This creates competition among people and in turn develops the need to push oneself against others. I believe there is nothing wrong with competition as it breeds excellence and high quality. However, on the other side of the coin, excellence is only developed among few people realistically speaking, and the rest realizes the need to prove themselves further. This is the beginning of the creation of egoistic needs.

Now, dealing with crab mentality maybe very difficult as this requires one to face also its own insecurities. Being aware of our weaknesses is a way to deal with crab mentality. Perhaps in an analogy, if an epidemic has no cure, the only way to deal with it is prevention. Prevention in the context of crab mentality relates with being honest to oneself. If you can not do it, find time to be better, without engaging on negativity. Hardwork is needed to achieve this. Unfortunately, not all Filipinos are willing to show courage to be better, especially in difficult situations. For example, Filipinos working abroad find it difficult to deal with other Filipinos. Other Filipinos may gossip around several things related and unrelated to work. Worse, if the intention is for their superiors to notice it. In this situation, one should show courage doing better in work. Focus on the meat of the issue. The personal attacks will be shadowed by the your effort of making a difference in your work and yourself. Personally, I have met a lot of Filipinos who would rather waste time in gossips, rather than making an effort to improve themselves. To be honest, I pity them as their lives are stuck in the mud.

There is one aspect of crab mentality that deserves to be understood. There is a very thin line between crab mentality and being righteous. Being righteous means believing, living and deciding on things based on what is right. Being right in this case I define as good for the most number of people. If a Filipino does a crime, should another Filipino tell the police about it, given you know the crime was committed due to fact that that person needs to provide food for its family? Absolutely yes! Most of the difficult cases involves money as it is considered as the most scarce resource Filipinos need to survive. In this instance, telling the truth to stop one person from doing wrongful acts  is not crab mentality. This is considered a performance of an ethical duty of stewardship. Never allow others to continue on doing wrongful acts as no one never knows what other things might result, if these actions were merely tolerated. Never be afraid in doing so, regardless of how people might react. I understand that many may not share my thoughts on this. However, I learned from the upbringing of my parents that what is right is never compromised and it should be upheld, especially when more people may benefit from the truth.

Lastly, I really do not agree crab mentality exist naturally among Filipinos. It has been a result of inevitable factors that contributed Filipino people to act that way. What we Filipinos can do now is to focus on knowing our weaknesses, acknowledging and improving them through hardwork and being cautitious of our thoughts, words and actions towards other people. If we have thought of one negative trait of others, try to find two other positive traits that person has. If the positive traits overshadow the negative trait, keep ourselves from highlighting negativity. However, even if we have found many positive traits and we have determine that the negative trait may cause extreme damage to others and the person, we should exercise prudence in stopping the person in engaging these acts, whatever actions it take to rectify it.


  1. Crab mentality goes further than ego and self serving agenda in a competitive environment. While it is not natural in humans whichever race that maybe but it is deeply rooted in a collective inferiority complex. This collective inferiority complex is most often observed in a group, tribe, nation or race who has been subjugated, conquered or defeated (in a war for example). A very good example are the slaves in Rome who have known slavery for almost half a century but as the Roman Empire fell, these slaves never rose up to form their own nation or at least rise up to assert better social status. Instead, they were scattered around Europe and became slaves again in the Feudal age. Why? They lacked the self identity that can serve as a focal point of a collective consciousness and claim their place in a just society. They time and time again were divided and conquered. They were dominated. Will it finally end then? Yes it can but it is a collective effort and zeitgeist revolution that cannot be achieved through a handful of enlightened individual members preaching on the pulpit to the masses.

    How do I view the case of Filipinos? There are three very important factors that I see as catalysts for the so called collective inferiority complex to be corrected.

    1. Language - as you already mentioned many Pinoys take pride on their English language skills and look down on fellow pinoys who can't. Well the constitution and laws of the Philippines are in English for a start. We are taught in higher education mostly in English as medium of instruction. J.P. Rizal has a point when saying "ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay mabaho pa sa malansang isda". Look at Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand they are way behind compared to us when it comes to English but they are way ahead of us economically.

    2.Patriotism thru national identity - why is it that when something is only made in PH it is not good? Why is it that white skinned and blue eyed westerners are more beautiful or good looking than our own? if we accept our own while respecting others then we will start to build that identity eroded after 300 years of subjugation.

    3. Collective Success - yes you might say today is the agr of being unique, different or being against mainstream. Switzerland also has that! In fact this small Alpine republic has 26 administrative regions called Cantons with each canton having its own constitution, school system, tax laws and so on. But the secret of this small country in its economic success and very high standard of living is the EIDGENOSSENSCHAFTSGEIST which means "spirit of camaraderie". What I do or decide or think will affect others and will eventually come back to me being part of that canton and that nation.

  2. Now, there are two points now. Crab mentality may result from an internal conflict (inate securities) and external factors (lack of identity of the immediate group one belongs). There are things I can add:
    1. It seems then that crab mentality relates to ego. The ego pertains to an individual or to a group.
    2. I think inferiority complex may serve both as a cause and effect of crab mentality. Your explanation relates to why inferiority complex causes crab mentality. On the other side, inferiority complex maybe a result of crab mentality. The more people make effort to pull each other down, the more they will feel that collectively they are lesser as a group compared to others. They can easily perceive they are less cohesive as the others. In the long run, these negative perception may aggravate further crab mentality as this feeds the feeling that there is a need to push oneself out from the normal, in the expense of others.


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