The Picky Series: Part I - Picky vs. Selective: There's a Difference

Picky vs. Selective: There's a Difference

There used to be nothing more infuriating to me than being called too picky. 

The label never came across as a compliment or something to be proud of. It was something that, if accused, I'd quickly try to distance myself from. Rambling for understanding, I'd apologetically plead, "Nooo. I'm not picky at all. I mean, I totally get compromise and I'm not looking for anyone perfect. I'm not perfect. I'm just saying, I really like guys who keep their word. If you say you're going to do something, then you should do it. That's all." The speech never convinced anyone.

I'd walk away questioning the things I wanted.

Am I really too picky? Should I give up my idea of a partner who follows through, is ambitious, kind, funny, and smart? Why should I feel guilty or embarrassed about wanting attributes in my potential mate that easily describes male members in my family, my closest guy friends, a lot of the men in the professional groups to which I belong, and, well, myself?

In fact, if what I wanted in a partner was in the form of a questionnaire, each member of my circle of friends could easily check off most of the boxes.

It seemed what I wanted wasn't uncommon or in rare supply.

So why did a handful of people act like my expectations were so outrageous? 

Picky vs Selective
Webster's defines picky as extremely fussy or finicky; usually over trifles (placing a great deal of importance on something of very little value). 

Selective is having the function or power of selecting, characterized by careful selection. 

By definition, pickiness implies trivialism.

In real life, trivialism looks like serious dating consideration only being given to the guy who drives a Mercedes, owns a 3-story penthouse, and stands 6'3" tall or the girl whose body is in Olympic condition, with beautiful hair flowing down her back. Cars, penthouses, hair length are all considerations that bring no to very little value to a relationship. As important as they may be to those who seek them, they are trivial.

By definition, selectivity is a deliberate and careful act of power. The function of carefully selecting our mate--based on our values and visions of family--is a privilege and a necessity. 

In real life, it can look like you selecting for education, religious practices, generosity, a crime-free background, family relations, and a number of other qualities that align with your value set. 

In one instance, the power of selection found me walking out of a restaurant where I was meeting up with a first date who, had I stayed, would've been 45 minutes late. Since I select for people who are respectful of my time and can manage life's easy stuff (like keeping appointments), this was an indication that this guy was probably not the best for me. But here's where the fine line between picky and selective emerges--at least in conversation.

Does the example I've given seem minor to you? You may think lateness is not that big a deal. Could've been traffic, he lost track of time, got lost on the way to the restaurant. 45 minutes is petty. However, the point of being selective is that you are selecting for YOU. No one else. The idea that I would leave that restaurant because someone else hates lateness is equally absurd as my staying because someone else is cool with it. I left because it was the sane thing to do for ME. 

When they say, "You're too picky" what they really mean is, "What you value most ranks low in my value set."

The power of selection is one that we all have. It's not superficial. It's not shallow. It's not trivial. It is intelligent, intuitive, and divine. It tells us when something is not right or safe or good for us. And most of the time, it defies words or a coherent explanation. Sometimes we're simply unable to verbalize why something is right or wrong for us. We just know that it is. And that's enough.

This is the key that's frequently missed: selection is demonstrated externally, but it's driven by that which is internal. 

While picky can be an accurate descriptor for trivial pursuits, in my experience, it's a popular misnomer used when virtues are appraised differently among people.

I believe three things:
1) All have the right to want what they want without fantasy interference from us
2) There is such a thing as "too picky" 
3) But I ain't it

I'm wisely selective.

Join me next Tuesday as I explore the worst of what's behind the word "picky." Then, I'll close out the 3-part series with what you can do to keep what you want most from being devalued.


Photo credit: Sabrina Dan via Compfight