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Are You Her Friend Or Her Stepping Stone? 3 Signs You Might Be Prey to a Career Climber

Don't get caught in the web.


Art Credit: Veronica Varos

When we think of social climbers, many of us envision snarky tweens toting around Louis Vuitton purses, à la Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, or perhaps classic Jane Austen era aristocratic snootiness. But social climbing isn't relegated to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, or even snobby teenage girls. What about that friend from yoga who asks way too many questions about your coworker's weekend lakehouse? Or the office gossip queen who seems to be constantly ingratiating herself with the higher-ups?

According to Psychology Today, it's possible social climbing is rooted in insecurity and “an extreme tendency towards self-comparison.” This may be obvious in retrospect, but sometimes it’s hard to pick out these traits in a person we’re close with until we’ve been used and left in the dust.

So how do you distinguish between your average social butterfly or an ambitious coworker and a person who sees friendship as a stepping stone to her own personal or professional success? Here are three warning signs that you might be caught in the web of a social climber.

01. She calls for favors.

Obviously friends do friends favors, but you know she is a social climber when she only calls when she needs something. Real friends should be interested in you, not just what you can do for them.

02. She talks herself up and you down.

If she is a pro, then it's subtle. When you're with friends or colleagues she might throw a jab that makes her look good. It's just a passing comment, but it got a laugh and leaves you feeling a little more "silly" than you would like.

03. She flakes out.

Most people have a bout of flakiness every now and then—you double-booked, over-scheduled, or just totally spaced. But the social climber is a notorious flake. Her first question is always, "Who is going to be there?" She will usually be the last person to RSVP (in case there is something better going on) and will frequently cancel or not show, if something does "come up" last minute.

What should you do?

Cutting ties with someone is no easy task. But if your friend is truly a social climber, you don’t want to stick around. Attempting to sustain a one-sided friendship can only lead to heartbreak. Starting down the path of social posturing means starting down a road in which happiness and contentment always remain a few steps ahead of you. It’s not worth your peace of mind and sense of self-worth to try to keep up with the unreasonable demands of the socially grasping friend.

But how to move on? There is no need to shun the person in question; this is about protecting your feelings and standing up for yourself. It’s important to distance yourself from the fair-weather friend kindly but firmly. Slowly transition into spending the majority of your time with other friends. And don’t be afraid to say no to unreasonable requests for favors. You simply want to demonstrate to the social climber that you’re no longer dependent on her. Once she realizes that you have a solid support network and no interest in the race to the top of the social ladder, she’ll eventually drift away for good—or maybe even see the error of her ways!