An old salt told me that if blue crabs are placed in a bucket, none will likely escape even if the top of the bucket can be gripped by a pincer. That’s because when one starts up, the others pinch onto him, trying to pull themselves up, pulling him back down.
The individual was illustrating why leaders have such a difficult time leading people. There are people who don’t want him or her to be over them, above them. They try to pull up themselves by pulling them down.
An 18-year-old girl recently asked me why a friend of hers in student leadership was being mistreated by students who should be respecting her. I drew her a diagram of a string of lights attached to one battery. I said, “If one of these lights becomes brighter than the others, it causes the others to dim. Since losing brilliance is uncomfortable, some people are annoyed by the one receiving the additional power ... and they’re in no mood to celebrate him or her.”
A physician serving as a camp doctor where I was speaking and serving as the unofficial camp counselor walked beside me on a pathway, and she asked, “Why am I getting the cold shoulder from some of the staff members? I’m not feeling included.”
I answered, “You are too successful. Not only are you a doctor, but you are attractive, have a vivacious personality, and most people love you. Some people are going to feel like they fade in your presence. Just keep on being yourself. You are fine, and you will serve many.”
My mother once came to me during her 23-year tenure of working at His Love Counseling Services and asked, “Why do some people attack me? All I do is love people.”
I responded, “You are resented by a few because your star is so bright that their stars pale in significance.”
When Mother retired, the staff and board gave her a you-saved-my-life trophy because that message was the most frequent testimony of the people who saw her in counseling or experienced her in her groups for the divorced and widowed. Absorbing sarcasm by a few disgruntled people was worth it for Mother, especially since her legacy remains alive in people’s hearts.
I’m mindful of teenagers who have magnetic appearances, are on the honor roll and are outstanding in extracurricular activities. They often have low self-esteem due to a few peers being mean to them because they are too together and, in their presence, they feel disheveled. Feedback is too often negative, and achievers get the idea that they are unacceptable.
I told one such girl this week, “You make straight A’s, you are successful in sports, you love your faith, you are respectful of authorities, and that makes you 100 percent successful. Success is not only something to look forward to in adult life; you are already achieving it. Now, just add more age-appropriate fun and push critics to the side, and you’ll be well-adjusted.”
I further said, “And if you doubt yourself, do this self-talk: ‘The head of a counseling agency and an author has said that I’m 100 percent successful, and I should believe what he says over what is said by immature kids in my environment.’”
A college student who interned in my office, who now has a doctorate in psychology, asked me this: “Why is it that I listen to everyone’s problems, but they don’t want to hear about my problems?”
I replied, “Because you are their anchor, and, subconsciously, they don’t want their anchor to be slipping … and you get mistreated in the process. Talk to me instead of them, and I’ll listen to you.”
When a young man was elected student body president in high school, committees of disdain formed against him because some kids resented his win over other candidates. Through it all, he led with valor and went on to be elected student body president of his college, 18,000 students. He campaigned with this saying I gave him: “Success is helping others be successful, and fellow students, I want to help you be successful in your college life.”
I encourage readers to be attentive to the needs of vibrant young leaders because they need affirmation to counteract crabby underlings.