This is such a common dilemma, I’m going to have to write a longer post on the subject soon.
But fundamentally, the challenge comes down to a single concept of profound psychological significance:
Intimacy is an act of immense vulnerability.
Intimacy is a bargain – we trade off the prospect of pleasure for the risk of psychological or emotional hurt. If we decide we’d prefer not to experience that kind of discomfort, we play safe.
I strongly recommend reading What Nice Men Don’t Say To Nice Women, a short essay on vulnerability written from the top’s perspective, but it equally well applies to those who’d like to be submissive.
It is telling that in your original question, you mention the mask you wear every day. Each of us are psychological icebergs, drifting through the turbulent ocean of life, with only the tiniest fraction of ourselves exposed to public scrutiny. And what is seen is carefully curated.
We men have many talents, but mind-reading is not one of them. That’s why the submissive young woman who says she’s been naughty and deserves a spanking is such a hot male fantasy. It is explicit permission to proceed – for your lover to transition from being your protector to your punisher.
Many do not find this easy, especially those who’ve spent a lifetime wearing a different mask.
My advice for those who find vulnerability difficult is to start opening up anonymously.
Anonymous social media provides a channel for you to message those you trust, and to start discussing what you desire. Openness breeds sexual confidence, a vital prerequisite before you’re ready to be vulnerable.
If you have a partner, ensure that you say the word spank in every encounter. No need to make a big deal of it. Normalise it.
It could be as simple as a gasped “spank me!” during sex.
Or as provocative as “I touched myself thinking about you today. Was that naughty of me? Does that deserve a good spanking?”
Whatever you’re comfortable with.
If you desire spanking, begin to embrace it. Begin to uncover it.
Dare to be vulnerable again.