When we were young, we tried on several masks and suits of armor so we could protect ourselves from hurts and disappointments. We tried on those different masks or personas until we found some that worked to keep us from feeling too vulnerable. And after several years, those masks and suits of armor became so much a part of us that we scarcely knew who we were without them. Or we didn't know where a mask ended and we began.
One of my masks to avoid vulnerability is the one of extreme competence and toughness. Vulnerability to me is when I don't know what I'm doing—or when I feel weak and helpless. I project the image of strength and act as though I know what I'm doing even when I do not. That's what I learned to do when I was quite young. I'm trying to drop those now.
Here's the thing: As we age, we realize that our masks or suits of armor keep us from being completely authentic and real. We begin to realize the value of vulnerability. When I can show that I, too, am afraid and don't really know what to do in a given situation, others can admit to their fears as well. But when I act tough and strong all the time, others are afraid to speak about their fears and inadequate feelings.
So, though we added masks and armor when we were young, we do reach a certain age when we want to remove them. Having said that, I must clarify and say that we don't want to totally rid ourselves of them or pack them away in a closet forever. We can't "let it all hang out" with everyone in our lives. That simply isn't safe. There are times we need our armor of protection. There are some people in our lives with whom we definitely need masks. It's not safe to be unprotected.
You are the only one who knows just which masks to remove, when and with whom. It's your choice. You're the one who knows what authenticity looks like for you.