The term “Pick-Me” has taken society by storm, rattling traditional dating tropes and expectations. To better understand the concept of the pick-me woman, think of Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy pleading with McDreamy (or more appropriately, Mr. Emotionally Unavailable) to “pick me, choose me, love me!” While the “Pick-Me” woman has usually been depicted as someone who takes on traditionally male interests for the purpose of attracting men, the subject of the “Cool Girl” monologue from Gone Girl, the pick-me woman has far deeper and darker red flags than we realize. In a patriarchal society, most women will likely have certain harmful pick-me habits ingrained into them since adolescence as well as some internalized misogyny to undo and work on. However, the pick-me woman has internalized these destructive habits to such an extent that it becomes an integral part of her identity, behavior, and her relationship repertoire – this harms not only her but other women around her as well. When combined with narcissistic traits and behaviors such as a lack of empathy, malicious envy and callousness, this can make for a dangerous combination.
The pick-me woman exists on a spectrum: from the friend who may settle for less in her relationships to the more narcissistic women who write love letters to serial killers like Ted Bundy. Whether you know a pick-me woman or are a pick-me woman, it’s important to understand the signs so that we as a society no longer enable and condone this behavior – whether in yourself or in others. If you have people in your life who exhibit these red flags to an excessive extent, now is the time to learn more about them so you can set healthy boundaries.If you yourself are lower on the spectrum of pick-me habits or are willing to look at your dating and relationship habits more closely and honestly, there is still hope. You can steer yourself toward becoming less of a pick-me and more of an alpha woman instead. Learn how and the red flags below:
RED FLAG #1: You’re willing to throw other innocent women under the bus to gain the validation of a man.
Have no fear, the pick-me woman is here…to betray her fellow woman so long as there is a crumb of male validation on the table. If you or a friend you know is a pick-me, it’s likely that you’ve degraded other women on your road to trying to gain male attention or witnessed a pick-me woman degrading other women. The extreme, narcissistic version of the pick-me woman has no problem denigrating her female friends to make herself look “better” in the eyes of a man she’s interested in, actively going out of her way to pursue partnered men or even the men that her friends are interested in to “one-up” her in some way. They may share traits and behaviors with histrionic women as they demand to be the center of attention and feel jealous of women who get more male attention than they do.
They are also the first women to actively sympathize with predatory men and defend known abusers and believe a man without question when he claims all his exes are crazy. They have no problem being an emotional support sponge for misogynistic men who want to vent about the very women they mistreat. In other words, while a pick-me will rarely actually be “chosen” by the men she pursues (because ironically, while men praise pick-me women for being loyal, they’re still too busy falling head over heels for the alpha woman who doesn’t put up with their bullshit), she’s still a match made in heaven for a misogynist looking for a sympathetic ear and is willing to perform all sorts of emotional labor to maintain any attention she can get.
Tips for being an alpha woman: In a patriarchal society, it’s wise to take any claims of the “crazy ex” with a grain of salt. Don’t be a sympathetic ear to abusers and predators who are trying to smear their victims and do not be an enabler. Do not try to engage with partnered men or try to pursue men your friends are interested in – this only makes you look desperate. Identify when you are being used and exploited. Limit the emotional labor you do for men. Cultivate your female friendships, or at the very least, stop throwing other women under the bus for short-lived male validation that is dependent on what you can do for a man. It will never serve you.
RED FLAG #2: You center men and relationships as the end-all, be-all of your entire existence. Not only are you willing to lower your standards and violate your boundaries for the men you desire, but you also shame other women who have higher standards.
The pick-me woman believes that her relationships with men are the most meaningful pursuit in life. Therefore, she centers men and their needs at all costs, even to the detriment of herself, her family, her career, her dreams, and her friends. This is different from trauma bonding in a toxic relationship, as the narcissistic pick-me woman deliberately goes out of her way to center her relationships above other people who have supported her due to her lack of empathy, whereas in trauma bonding you are coerced into lowering your standards. A distinct aspect of the narcissistic pick-me’s habits is that her standards are not just low for herself – she attempts to impose them on the other women around her and shame women who demand better in their relationships and dating lives.
For example, a pick-me woman who praises casual sex and hookups may shame a woman who doesn’t wish to engage in hookup culture. Or a pick-me woman who settles for low-effort dates might show contempt, rage, and envy toward women who expect more romance and chivalry. Pick-me women might be the first ones who defend their boyfriends that have a “wandering eye,” rationalizing that “men are visual creatures,” and pretend they’re “cool” about it and “not insecure” while women who are actually secure within themselves with higher standards and boundaries do not settle for such disrespect and actively cut off men who show even an ounce of such disrespect. Deep down, the pick-me woman knows she’s probably getting a bad deal by settling in her relationships and denying herself what she really wants and deserves: but she’d rather self-soothe by telling herself that “men deserve better than these high-maintenance women,” even in a world where women are oppressed and are usually just asking for the bare minimum.
Tips for being an alpha woman: Start decentering men from your life and put the focus on you. Stop shaming “high-maintenance” women who have higher standards just because you feel you do not deserve good treatment. Look within and ask yourself what you truly desire from dating and relationships. Ask yourself why you feel you do not deserve what you want – that is where your insecurity around women who have high standards stems from. It’s likely that you’re settling because you also fear losing out on male attention. What you have to realize is that you’re only losing out on low-quality men.
RED FLAG #3: You always put in too much effort and labor to cater to a man you’re dating or in a relationship with, going overboard to try to impress them.
This is a pick-me habit that may be ingrained in many women, even those who don’t demonstrate the other red flags. If you’re going overboard by cooking and cleaning for a man you barely know, giving up your daily activities to make time for him, and catering to his every need and desire, it’s time to take a step back.
Tips for being an alpha woman: Ask yourself: what has he done to impress you? Do you actually like him? How much effort is he putting in? Remember, the world isn’t equal yet and can be a dangerous place for women. You and other women deserve a man who’s willing to show you he’s serious about you and puts in effort, time, and energy to sweep you off your feet, especially in the early stages of the relationship.
RED FLAG #4: You change yourself – your goals, beliefs, way of speaking, interests, style, and hobbies – just to please a man.
The “traditional” pick-me goes out of her way to center her hobbies, interests, and activities around what she thinks men are into, even if she doesn’t genuinely share these interests herself. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of women who genuinely do have an interest in what society deems traditionally “masculine” activities, but the pick-me woman is different as her interests are only adopted from the desire to be around and converse with men in the hopes of garnering more male attention. She wants to be seen as the “cool girl” who can talk to men about sports, chat incessantly on Discord servers exclusively with male gamers, or binge-drink beer with the guys. She might even change her personal style to blend in with “the guys” or dress in a way she feels men would like rather than what she might personally prefer.
Tips for being an alpha woman: Identify what goals, hobbies, interests, activities, or changes you’ve engaged in as a subconscious effort to bring yourself into proximity to men. Which hobbies are genuine and which ones were only because you wanted to be “chosen” and noticed by men? Have you made changes to the way you look, act, and behave just for male approval? Start engaging in what you authentically want to pursue, rather than what you feel will give you male attention.
RED FLAG #5: You desperately flaunt your relationship status as a way to feign a false sense of superiority over other women – enduring even the most miserable relationships just so you can say that “at least you have a man.”
Pick-me women are masters of embodying the concept of “misery loves company.” That is why they are often the first to put down and shame single women and pride themselves on having a relationship – even if that relationship is a toxic one with a low-quality man. They will usually put down women who are living freely and joyfully as they try to convince themselves that they’re better off in a toxic relationship than being single – even if they’re not. Yet they don’t just settle for toxic relationships: they try to degrade women who aren’t in relationships and bully them, unleashing their rage on innocent women who are actually surpassing them when it comes to fulfillment, success, and joy. This bullying of other women is what sets a narcissistic pick-me woman apart from “regular” women who are just doing what they’ve been conditioned to do by a patriarchal society.
Tips for being an alpha woman: Recognize that being a single woman can actually be just as happy of a state as being coupled, if not moreso – and that is backed up by actual research. Acknowledge that the single women you’re shaming usually have thriving and successful lifestyles that you haven’t achieved and may be envious of. You may feel trapped in your relationships, may be jealous of their freedom and high standards, their ability to enjoy their own company and have solid support networks. These women should be celebrated, not shamed. If anything, you should be evaluating the state of your own life before placing judgment on anyone else’s, especially someone who is likely happier than you are.
Realize that being in a relationship is not an accomplishment and set your goals on utilizing your gifts and talents on something productive that will enhance the quality of your life and your self-esteem. Stop projecting onto other women your need for male validation and give yourself a well-needed reality check with how much suffering you’ve experienced because you were willing to endure a high amount of toxicity just to say you had a relationship. If you want a high-quality relationship in the future, you’ll need someone who adds value to an already flourishing life. Otherwise, you’ll continue to settle for toxicity for the empty status symbol of a relationship because that’s the only thing you feel you have going for you.
If you’re a pick-me or know a pick-me, it’s time to challenge the harmful beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that have harmed you or other women. Women deserve to raise their standards for dating and relationships, and it shouldn’t be other women who are holding them back and contributing to the problem.