You wear a mask when you want to hide your face. You wear armor when you want to protect yourself from others. Masks and armor may be fun during Halloween, but beyond that, wearing them will simply wear you out.
The problem with most people is that they keep their masks and armors on all the time. You may be one of them, or you may know someone who is like that. If you are one of them, remember that this is not only a burden for you -- it’s also a burden for everyone around you.
First, let’s talk about masks. Masks don’t let you reveal your true identity to the world. Since it’s not a “physical” mask you are wearing, you will need to remember the imaginary mask that you pretend to wear all the time. In other words, you have to lead a double life. Things get more complex if you wear different types of masks with different people -- imagine a mask when you are with your family, a mask when you are with your friends, a mask when you are with your coworkers, a mask when you are in front of your boss. Isn’t that a recipe for headache?
Second, let’s talk about armors. Armors seem to protect you from someone hurting you. The problem is that the same armors will prevent others to get through to you. A life that does not touch others and a life that is not touched by others can be a nightmare.
The funny thing about masks and armors is that the more you wear them, the more people around you wear them. In general, people tend to match and mirror you. If you wear a mask and an armor, they will wear one of them too. If you drop them, chances are they will drop them too.
Imagine a situation when you and everyone around you drop the mask and the armor. Imagine the kind of conversations that can happen. Imagine the kind of connections that can emerge. Imagine the kind of trust that can be built. Imagine the kind of bonding that can take place. It’s a whole new world.
Now how does one make that happen?
It’s not easy and it does not come without some pain. If you have lived a life with a mask and an armor, one fine day you can’t start living without one or both of them. You will start seeing “withdrawal” symptoms urging you to go back to them as quickly as possible.
Here is something to consider -- rather than expecting the other person to drop their masks and armors, go first and drop your mask and armor. For the exact reason (matching and mirroring) mentioned above, you will compel people to drop their masks and armors.
The risk with this approach: there is a chance that you drop your mask and armor and they don’t. You have opened your soul and they are still guarded. You extended your hand and they didn’t. You walked the extra mile and they didn’t move.
My response to that risk -- “So what?” By practicing to drop your mask and armor daily, you have reducing the “delta” between who you are and who you portray to be -- one word for it is liberation -- freedom from having to live two lives. So you are good if the strategy succeeds and you benefit if the strategy fails. It can’t get any better than that.
Good luck with living a “mask and armor” free life!
Rajesh Setty is an entrepreneur, author and speaker based in Silicon Valley. You can follow him on his blog at rajeshsetty.com/blog or on Twitter @rajsetty. This article is an excerpt from his upcoming book codenamed “Smart, but Stuck!”
Image credit: Giulia