Flakiness is becoming a social epidemic. There are still people who are reliable, honest, and industrious, but they’re less common to find than in times past. Protecting oneself from people lacking those qualities is increasingly important as the Kali Yuga continues.

Unfortunately, anyone can be a flake: neighbors, family members, co-workers, romantic interests, or sometimes even “friends”. However, there are ways to identify them and to mitigate their influence in your life.

Misplaced priorities

Not knowing what’s important in life is a sign of immaturity. Further, that obviously causes personal instability. Some real examples:

  • Someone already nearly $100K in credit card debt buys a hot tub and replaces the McMansion’s perfectly good carpet with wood planking.
  • A high school student drops out a few months away from graduation, because smoking weed all day is more important than earning a diploma.
  • A convict gets out of jail and immediately starts committing the very same crime; apparently a slow learner.
  • A roommate contributing nothing forces a paying roommate out, while a third must then pay all the bills and housing expenses.

The first was a yuppie housewife whose husband was working his ass off, but still they sank into debt. I also know multiple examples of the next items. Yes, I was the paying roommate who got kicked out twice because freeloaders wanted my room to store their crap. Unfortunately, people like that often drag others down with them.

Entitlement mentality

These “special snowflakes” often consider themselves more talented than they actually are, more virtuous, more intelligent, etc. Naturally, they’re bad at recognizing their limitations. This adds up to feeling more deserving. Faced with reality, they might retreat to an escapist Walter Mitty fantasyland. Some will believe ordinary jobs are beneath them, the world owes them a living, or the rules don’t apply to them. At worst, they’ll act as if they’ve been divinely selected, and everyone else’s rightful role is to serve them.

The harsh truth is that life isn’t a Disney fairy tale, and you have to take the bad with the good. It’s hard to get enthusiastic about the fact that most people—oneself included—will become fairly ordinary working stiffs. (The grass isn’t always greener on the other side; billionaires and celebrities have their problems too.) Really, the disappointment should wear off about the time one stops wearing a cape to school.

There’s another side to the self-deception. If Joe Blow is so wonderful, then why isn’t he rich, famous, or at least recognized for his wonderfulness? Flakes might consider themselves chronically unlucky—nothing to do with their own choices, of course. Others get consumed by envy, hating success or happiness in others. Some might become rather paranoid. That could result in lashing out against society rather than constructively participating in it and pursuing upward mobility. Another avenue is pretending to fit in and play along while passive-aggressively taking advantage of everyone else, including their friends and benefactors.

Of course, all the above is messed up nine ways from Sunday. Still, a flake’s delusions of grandeur and persecution, leading to self-defeating behaviors, are understandable in that context. Note well, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve one’s station in life. However, careers aren’t built overnight, and expecting instant results isn’t realistic.

Other signs of flakiness

It’s prudent to consider anyone a flake until proven otherwise. Sure, that’s cynical, but experience has taught me to be a judgmental bastard that way. The signs aren’t always obvious. Flakes can have much superficial charm, and seem at first like they have their lives together. Be on the lookout if you notice any of the following signs:

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  • Chaotic relationships and work history
  • Constant excuses; everything’s someone else’s fault
  • Rejects constructive advice
  • Defeatist mentality
  • Believes self-improvement is unnecessary
  • Has a problem with every solution (resourceful people have a solution for every problem)
  • Flagrant dishonesty
  • Incessant negativity (beyond actual problems or simply having a bad day)
  • Lack of humility
  • Constant drama
  • Habitual gossip and backbiting
  • Two-faced behavior and blatant hypocrisy
  • Laser-guided selective memory

These traits (and the foregoing) have much in common with Cluster B cases. However, they aren’t always bad enough to meet clinical diagnostic criteria.

Flake mitigation strategies

Always set proper precedents and boundaries. Doing so actually might keep things pretty tolerable. Helping friends out is okay if it’s occasional and reciprocated. However, beware of attempts to push the limits; consider that a Shit Test. Don’t become an unpaid errand boy. It’s not your job to make extraordinary efforts for other people that they can do themselves.

More importantly, you are not anyone’s bank or credit card. Flakes are often desperate to “borrow” cash, because of their chaotic lives and misplaced priorities. However, freeloaders certainly won’t be as desperate to honor their commitment to repay you, even if they swear upon a stack of Bibles. Paying you back will be a lower priority than paying their weed dealer.

Never commingle finances. Sure, that cell phone plan might be cheaper going in with someone, but not if you get stuck paying the entire bill every damn month. No cosigning loans either, not even for your brother. If anyone pouts about your lack of generosity, don’t accept the guilt trip.

If circumstances force you to deal with them, start documenting everything. Get a call recording phone app, or a wearable voice recorder (where legal, of course). Save those emails and texts, and keep a journal. If it’s impossible to keep flakes at arm’s length, have a calm but firm talk about their antics. If you get the “you’re persecuting me” shtick, there’s your answer.

If that doesn’t sink in, then ghost the flake. I’ll even do that to relatives as needed; I’m just a dick that way. If it’s someone at work, that’s more difficult, since you might have to change departments or possibly find another job.

Prognosis

Fixing a flake would be a service to humanity. However, unless you’re a psychiatrist or a surgeon specializing in cranio-rectal extraction, that’s not your job. Unfortunately, nothing short of a personal epiphany is likely to pop a flake’s ego bubble.

Perhaps one reason we’re seeing more flakiness lately is because too much self-esteem stuff was pushed onto kids during the 1990s. A legitimate and healthy form of pride only can result from a sense of achievement. That in turn comes from getting good at something or accomplishing cool stuff. Anything else puts the cart before the horse.

Still, the problem’s roots go deeper than that. The counterculture zeitgeist of the 1960s got the ball rolling: scoffing at traditional values, questioning everything to death, “situational ethics” (useful for coming up with justifications to do whatever you want), and all the rest of it. That made “anything goes” stuff not just seemingly acceptable, but fashionable.

Hopefully things won’t get worse. Industrious, high-trust societies are better than the alternatives; those tend to be hellhole countries. Hopefully future generations will start getting things right. This means that positive character traits like honesty, dependability, and a good work ethic should be given the emphasis they deserve. Refusing to tolerate the intolerable is a positive step, personally and societally.

Finally, always keep your bullshit detectors well-tuned.

Read More: Stop Associating With Losers

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