I had an appointment with my psychologist yesterday. Sessions with her are always really difficult and yesterday she told me that I use bravado, that I have a persona, to cope with the fact that I don’t like people to know that I’m vulnerable.

As irritating as it is to admit, I think she’s right. She’s right about a lot of things and that makes it all the more difficult to see her. To paraphrase she says there is ‘party Fleur’ and ‘real Fleur’. Apparently party Fleur does not allow people to get to know real Fleur and ends up scaring people off who could be excellent additions to my world. She is brash and judgemental and generally over the top.

If that’s true and real Fleur needs to come out more then I have some questions: How do I show more of real Fleur? How do I lose the bravado? What parts are bravado and what parts are me? Why would I want to let go of it? Am I ready to be that vulnerable and human?

Each question leads to its own set of questions. Take ‘how do I show more of real Fleur?’ for example. This brings up a bunch of further questions because part of this whole journey for me is that I don’t really know who real Fleur is! How can I start revealing her in a more authentic way to new people if I don’t understand who she is? What she’s like? What hurts her? What makes her strong? What does she enjoy? What does she dislike?

The second two are kind of linked; how do I turn the bravado off and what parts are bravado and what parts are me? These two are hard to deal with because if I am not careful I will end up questioning every single thing I do and be in danger of losing all sense of self completely.

I guess I should really start by defining what bravado is. Wikipedia suggests it can be ‘a pretence of bravery’ or ‘the quality or state of being foolhardy’ or ‘a blustering swaggering conduct’. By those definitions then, what sort of behaviour could we define as bravado? Parading around at clubs in scanty clothing? Sure! Trying to be super funny in social settings? Check! Not letting on when you’re hurt by someone else’s behaviour? Definitely! Acting like you are a commodity in a transaction because you don’t dare to hope you’re a friend? Yes! Keeping up the respectable, predictable job that is killing you because you are scared of being called a failure? Absolutely!

All of this stuff really really hurts to think about. Putting on a show of being happy so people don’t see how sad I am, strutting around like king shit so people don’t realise how insecure I am, laughing loudly and heartily at goofs I make when inside I feel like I might die of shame, wanting to be the best at everything and not accepting anything less because I am convinced that I have to be good at something for people to like me.

The other question that is probably the clincher is how much of the show is for other people and how much is for me? How much of the persona has been grown as a way of telling myself that I’m ok? How much is to keep others out and how much to keep myself together? If I’m really honest with myself a lot of the bravado is for me and maybe it’s only a side effect that it keeps people from seeing all that stuff inside.

I have to start experimenting with being gentler, being more vulnerable, more sensitive, more genuine and more honest with myself and others. It seems like a hard road, but life is not meant to be easy. Or so they say.