One day they tell you you're young and beautiful. You have a bright future ahead of you, they say.

Then the next day, with no warning, they say you are being too picky, that you're not getting any younger, and you need to think more seriously about settling down.

That day happens at different ages and stages depending on your culture and community as if there’s an expiry date stamped on your forehead for all to see.

Very few things are more painful for an older single than being told that they're being too picky. You wonder which one of your dates you were being too picky about? Was it the one with abusive red flags? Or the divorced one who claimed no responsibility for any of the three failed marriages? Or perhaps the one with whom you had absolutely nothing in common whatsoever. They tell you it’s a blind date, but they don't tell you blind, deaf and mute.

Would any of the people accusing you of being too picky have married any of your previous disaster dates? I highly doubt it.

That being said, there is a small kernel of truth to the picky myth and with the permission of you wonderful courageous singles I'm going to lay it out in the hope that you will remain picky – if picky means you're not going to settle for anything less than the wonderful life you all deserve.

We imagine. We picture.

We don't always realize that we do, but we do. For example, ever read a book before you saw the movie (which is always a disappointment after the book, apart from "The Help") and spent the entire movie irritated at the choices of the casting director because that character was so different from how you'd imagined them? Ever work with somebody and then later on met their partner and found yourself saying, Good gracious, that's so not who I imagined? Ever have a phone conversation with someone you haven’t met in person and then when you meet them you think to yourself, Hey, you're tall! I pictured you short!

Our mind is always conjuring images and that’s normal. Except sometimes it can create a problem. Think of the following scenario: You're looking for the perfect shoe to match the perfect outfit. You walk into shop number one, scan the shelves and they’re not there, so you walk into shop number two. You scan the shelves and nope, they're not there either. All day long you look for your shoes and they’re nowhere to be found.

But here's the thing. There are two parts to the evolution of the shoe. First, there's the shoe profile. For example, shoes that fit; shoes that are the right color; shoes that look good; shoes that make you feel good; shoes that match the outfit.

Then there's the image of the shoe that you conjure up in your mind. Ladies: black, pointed, opaque 3-inch heel. Gents: charcoal loafers, thick sole, perhaps a contrast rim. You get it. We all have our picture.

But there may be a whole variety of shoes that fit your profile. If you have imagined the perfect shoes down to the last detail, chances are you’ll spend your time looking for that exact pair. And it’s unlikely you’ll find it. You’ll leave the store empty handed, even though you passed over a few pairs that do fit the profile.

The next day you walk into a different shoe stores and the shop assistant says, “Don't tell me what your picture is; tell me your profile.” Size, color, basic style. The shop assistant pulls out a pair and they’re different than what you imagined. You instantly want to say no because these are not the shoes you’ve been envisioning. But then you remind yourself to take the shop assistant’s advice and you drop the detailed picture of your shoes and focus instead on the essential profile that you’re looking for.

Holding tight to what you’re specifically envisioning needlessly limits your options.

Taken from that perspective, the new shoes have everything that you need and are looking for. You’re just a bit surprised. You try them on. It takes you a minute, but guess what? They look good. Even better than the shoes that you had imagined!

Ask happily married people if the person they married took them by surprise. Many people will say yes. This doesn't mean that they were hoping to marry someone good and – surprise! – they married an axe murderer! It means they shifted their picture.

Hold on to what's important. That overall profile is your guide. And let go of your detailed picture. Holding tight to what you’re specifically envisioning needlessly limits your options. Chances are that the partner that's out there waiting for you is not the one you've pictured to the T.

Let go of the details and hold on to what’s genuinely important. You’ll find yourself open to finding the better version of the partner you seek.