As every native knows, teasing comes from everywhere. Your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and cousins; it’s part of the humor we have. We poke fun here and there, have a chuckle, and give crazy, embarrassing nicknames. But could it also be part of the reason for the ‘crabs in a barrel’ mentality? If you’re not familiar with this saying, where’ve you been? Under a rock somewhere? (jk)

Crab In A Barrel Mentality is often used to describe social situations where one person is trying to better themselves and others in the community attempt to pull them back down. Also often used in describing the ghettos of America (or anywhere, for that matter).

     One of the big things I remember was being teased a lot. When you’re little it doesn’t bother you as much, you forget it and go play. But as you grow older and it continues, it starts to have an effect. Mostly it was out of fun and I’d laugh along but there was also the bad teasing. Mainly from peers who just want to embarrass you to seem cool, or to be plain mean.  Being that I was a chubby ndn girl who looked like Dora, it didn’t make things any easier. And the more I was exposed to it, the more it made me look at myself in a negative way. There wasn’t anyone there to reverse it.  I didn’t have anyone telling me otherwise. They forgot to tell me, “Oh they’re just joking. You’re beautiful.” A little girl is supposed to feel beautiful right? Well, I “sucked it up” and internalized my feelings. By doing so, I gradually became self-conscious and judgmental to others. I didn’t like seeing other girls who didn’t get teased. “Why me? Why not them?”.  And that was just grade school!
As you can guess, it carried on into junior high and then into high school. I won’t get into all the details here. I will admit though, that I got better at hiding the self conscious part of it, but the Anger in me was visible. And, to put it lightly, the anger was also active. I became a disruptive, chip-on-my-shoulder, hate-this-world, everyone-sucks, substance-abuse-to-cope, grades-began-to-drop, bully-esque teen who didn’t really care too much for pretty things and pretty people. I didn’t feel too good about myself. And because I was taught the bad teasing. I learned to pick things out on someone to make fun of. I related tearing someone down to looking cool. It was the norm. I have hurt people because of this, but hey “I made people laugh didn’t I?” (I’m very sorry by the way) I had this internal turmoil going on between a self-imposed position of inferiority and my own self destructive mindset.
Personally, this was my reason behind my ‘crab in a barrel’ mentality. I destroyed myself trying to save myself. When you feel the way I did, it’s not easy to look at a peer and praise them for having what you don’t. For achieving something great. For being happy when you’re not. For succeeding where you failed. It’s not an easy thing to admit. And it takes a lot of life lessons and maturing to grow out of that way of thinking. Who I used to be and who I grew up
to be are two very different people.
When I was asked to do this blog, I was very honored. I have always tried to tell myself writing was just a hobby even though deep down, it’s what I always wanted to do. Of course, it was because I was afraid of being criticized that I never did. I was afraid of someone teasing me about it. I realized I needed to put a stop to that and proceed. I can’t let that way of thinking continue to limit the roads the Creator laid out for me.
Nowadays I look around and I see that same mentality in friends and relatives. Maybe they don’t realize it or see it, maybe they don’t even care. But it’s there. It’s a prevalent being in our society. And I believe it’s a part of why it’s so hard for native women to grow, to see their potential and achieve success; To give themselves a better life. There is always someone somewhere being teased or torn down by criticism. Someone telling them they can’t do something. That they will fail. That they’re not good enough. Someone trying to drag them down. I’m guilty of it. And the sooner others change and use positivity in their lives, the better. Be happy for others who are doing good. Take their successes as inspiration to change the negatives that may be in your life. We, as native women, need to see the beauty, intelligence and strength we are all blessed with. We need to nurture those things and share them with the world. And who better to bring out those awesome things in us than each other?
Editor’s note: This was originally published in the “Inspired Blog” by Carrie King on 11/19/2013.
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