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I am thinking in particular of being willing to demean or damage oneself to seek social approval. For example, a person who refuses to stand up for a friend when that friend is insulted by higher-status strangers, or maybe even pretend not to have that friend, in order to curry favour or avoid trouble.

  • Spineless? A gutless wonder? – FumbleFingers Aug 10 '18 at 14:42
  • If there isn't a word, there should be one. Good question. I think spineless and gutless is part of how I'd perceive them, but it misses out the kowtowing element. And kowtowing misses out that element of betrayal. – S Conroy Aug 10 '18 at 14:50
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The word I think of based on your description is a:

Conformist

a person who conforms to accepted behavior or established practices.

...or someone who is subservient to society.

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  • Fake is another word that comes to mind – Othya Aug 10 '18 at 15:25
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vainglorious vacabulary.com

If you admire yourself in the mirror all the time and constantly brag about all the beauty contests you have won, you might rightfully get accused of being vainglorious.

A vainglorious attitude is not very likable in a person and can be annoying to be around. Vainglorious people are vain, excessively boastful, and have swelled pride. The base word, vainglory, dates all the way back to the 14th century and means “worthless glory.”

As in:

Was he trying to appeal to every demographic, transcend every identity category in a vainglorious effort to reach greater commercial heights ... The GuardianMar 16, 2018

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  • I thought about the word narcissist, but that (along with vainglorious) describes someone who is obsessed with themselves; not necessarily how others perceive them. You can be depressed, but still want others to think highly of you. – Othya Aug 10 '18 at 15:40

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