Is wearing a mask the norm for you, so even you don’t realize that something is shifting inside? Diana Gogan has a story to share about her journey through those feelings and how life changed for her when she acknowledged them.
Diana appeared to have it all, a great marriage, a lovely home and a very successful corporate career. Until something changed. She realized how much she had compromised and how unhappy she was. In Dropping the Mask, Diana shares how she lost herself—and the journey she took to finding herself again.
It’s another inspiring story of triumph.
This is another inspiring conversation in our series with women learning what it means to thrive. Don’t miss it. I invite you to watch our video conversation on RHGTV Network—the Empowered Connections Channel…
or read the transcript of our conversation below:
from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition
Diana Gogan: Dropping the Mask
~María: Hello and welcome to from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition. I’m María Tomás-Keegan, your host. And this is my continuing series of interviews in which I chat with strong, resilient women who have an inspiring story to tell, and it’s a story of transformation and they are courageous enough to share it with you. Today, my guest is Diana Gogan, who will share her story of discovering the hard way, that a very successful corporate career may not equate to a very happy life. She compromised so much to achieve status, the important title, and the big box that she lost herself in the process. The title of this episode is “Dropping the Mask.” Welcome, Diana.
~Diana: Oh, thank you, Maria! I’m so excited to be here. Just hear you say that I’m already emotional… Tearing up.
~M: Well, I appreciate this. Telling these kinds of stories is not easy to do, so I appreciate that you’ve chosen to share it with us.
~D: Oh, well thank you, thank you for listening. And the tears really are just in recognition of all of these transpired from that point. I think so many of us… I started off in my early 20s, looking forward to a career, and making money, and making an impact, and doing a job that you love, and all those things that we ideally strive for as we enter into the workforce.
And which I did, and I had high hopes and was really eager to put my best foot forward, and to grow, and to become very successful. That’s how we’re taught, that’s what we feel is expected of us a lot of times. So, I started down that track and started as a part-time teller on a “Well, we’ll try it out and see…” because she doesn’t have the experience to really zooming up a ladder. And it was all thrilling and exciting. And we built a new house, and we were buying new cars and we were… All of those wonderful things that that kind of income affords you.
And so, I did come to a point in my life though. This was 20 years in… So I was at this for a while, where I found myself crying in the parking lot, before going into work. And it wasn’t just a few tears, it was something that was just that heart-wrenching, room-crushing cry that we just… The ugly cry. I guess the best way to say where you’re just sobbing in the car.
And after that happened a couple of times, it was like… I came up with a plan, I was like I needed to park now, clear out in the back of the parking lot, so that my peers, and my bosses, and the people I worked with would not see this, because it became almost a ritual, if you will, before going into work. It was just that time where I could just let go of the English, and the despair and the overwhelm, and the feeling of my solving crush and gathering up all the strength, and the happy face, and putting that mask on walking into work which I always did, and walked in and went through the day and always good, but that became something that was happening time and time again. I thought I was handling it really well. I thought nobody knows about this. I’ve got a happy face on, I’ve got the successful happy-to-be-here attitude, working forward teamwork, all of that good kind of stuff and I didn’t have any idea that anybody knew what was going on. And that also carried over into home to where I began continuing to have to hold that mask up at home ’cause you don’t wanna fall apart at home either.
So everything was, I thought, fine until one day I got home from work and my husband greeted at me at the door and said: “We need to talk.” And oh boy, that put that, instant pit in my stomach, I could feel my throat close, my chest tight, and all of that kind of stuff, and it was like “That was the last thing I had ever expected to hear.” And so I was like, big gulp and “Alright, let’s go in and talk.” And again, felt that mask kind of fortifying in that retention mouth and what he said was, “I can’t do this anymore.” And I’m like, “Well, what can’t you do?” And he said, “I can’t live the rest of my life walking on eggshells because I never know when you’re having a good moment or a bad moment or when you’re going to get paged — ’cause that was still the era of paging for communication. And when you’re gonna get a page and that’s just gonna send you down that hole. He says, “I can’t do this anymore. This is not who… I know this is not the woman I love, this is not how I ever expected our relationship to go.” and he says “I can’t do this, it’s really affecting me.”
Ultimately he said, “Yeah, I don’t think you see this but it’s affecting us.” And wow! That was just like hitting getting hit with a ton of bricks, completely blindsided because I thought I had it all together. And as you can imagine, once that mask even cut down a little… I was still trying to hold it up and even as it started to fall, the emotion, and the realization and again, it was just the emotion just roll through, and I really began to see clearly what had been happening over the years. Yes, I had a great job, I was climbing the ladder, my peers, my mentors, my bosses, and supervisors are running me. Or like you’ve got it made. This is what you do. The plan was laid out. I had everything but the corner office, I was still at the cubicle at that time, so it wasn’t quite the corner office yet but six weeks vacation, benefits, I was a part of a group that was really high status and doing a lot of good things for the company. But I realized that through that all, and to have this conversation with my husband, I sold my soul.
~M: Wow! Yeah, you’re not the only one.
It’s funny because I can relate to your story so well, Diana. Having been in corporate for over 30 years myself, and I spend a number of them at the end of that tenure, wearing a mask every single day, and feeling disconnected, and pretending everything was okay, and just going through the motions. So, I used to think it was just me and I heard you say the same thing that you thought it was just you and that you thought you had covered it up. At some point, it kind of seeps through that suit of armor we put on, it seeps through, and people start to recognize that you’ve changed and you may not even recognize it.
~D: Oh, absolutely! And it was one of those things… So after we had that conversation, I realized that the ultimatum was not the ultimatum, but the choice he was giving me was… It’s either our relationship and we’ll figure it out, or it’s your career. And he was like, “I don’t care what the choice is, I just need to know for me.” There was no hesitation in that, it was like, “Well yeah, I will drop the damn job. I don’t even like it anyway.” So that’s kind of what poured out and I was like, “Woah! Did I say that out loud?”
~M: Be careful what you wish for, right?
I think we’re at a point here where I would love to stop this segment because I think you’re gonna start getting into the emotional stuff that you wanna talk about.
~D: Oh, absolutely!
~M: And that is a part that I’d like you to focus on in our next segment, how pushing down those emotions for so long, how that affected you and how you were able to break through that?
~M: Great! So thank you very much for sharing your story, Diana. This is María Tomás-Keegan. Hold it on, watch the next video, it’s gonna be impactful.
~M: Hello and welcome back to part two of my chat with Diana Gogan. She shared her story of quickly riding up the corporate ladder, only defined she compromised her values and her spirit.
I’m María Tomás-Keegan and this is from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition. I’m honored to share inspiring stories like Diana’s. These are stories of reaching out and rising up because they help us to know that we’re not alone in this life journey. Other people have gone before us and we can learn from them.
Thank you, Diana, for letting us see behind the mask you wore.
I’d like to focus on the emotions you were feeling during that time and since. What did it feel like to stuff down those emotions and just keep plowing through, day by day? And how did you discover that it helps when you allow the emotions to surface?
~D: Really powerful, powerful questions. I’m sure that there are many who can recognize and feel this and maybe are going through this right now, when getting up every morning and facing the day I would just dread the alarm going up in the morning.
I found comfort in my routine but what I found was happening and the routine is I begin to just prepare, armor up, shove things down, and it’s very heavy. Any joy that I might have woken up within the morning, the dog was looking, my face was quickly replaced by this “Tough it up, here we go”, and it was just really heavy. It’s like carrying an extra 100 or 500 pounds of weight. And not only that, there was a lot of emotion around not in who I was and I didn’t know that at the time, and I didn’t really understand what that meant.
In a very logical world, and none of this inside stuff was anything that I really need a lot of attention to, but I could tell there was something inside of me that was off, that was wrong, it was that the voice, the expression, something was just dying, and I didn’t even know what it was. I didn’t even have a language for it but it felt horrible.
And so that put me into the same what’s wrong with me and speculating about all the possible psychosis and health issues and things that could be wrong with. And I was like, “Oh wow! Can’t anybody know about that? So you just keep putting barriers around, and more questions, and doubts, and things ahead of myself just added more layers onto a really already toxic practice of emotional stuffing things in. And that, of course, led to meeting an outlet from time to time, and sometimes that was me just wigging out, just flipping out.
Sometimes it was meeting, sometimes it was drinking, sometimes it was whatever that is, even exercise at that point. I exercise a lot but it wasn’t necessarily a helpful exercise, it was just that space where I could just let it all out and I didn’t have to say a word about it, or I didn’t have to really feel. I could just let it loose. It didn’t take long before that became the new norm, you know, and I forgot what life was like before. And as I thought about what could I do differently it’s like, “Well I don’t wanna change anything. And I don’t wanna admit that I can’t handle this, or I’m not tough enough, or I’m not smart enough, or I can’t make it go of it. At that time, I was making more money than my husband, and so it was when he’s at home, asked me, “What is the choice you want to make?” It was like, “Well I want the marriage, but how in the world are we gonna do that?”
So in addition to stuffing all of that in, there was now that concern, and that doubt, and letting go of — what I have been raised to believe of security.
~M: And a sense of responsibility.
~D: Oh absolutely! I’m so glad you said that because yes, that there’s a huge sense of responsibility, a lot of which at this point looking back, I realized was made up in my head.
~M: Yeah, you know it’s not the guilt.
~D: The guilt was I failed.
~D: I can’t do this, I’m not good enough, I was a fraud, I’ve let people down, I’ve let me down, but I felt kind of good so that was a little confusing. I was making different choices but the guilt was actually just as heavy. I think if not more heavy than shoving it all in.
Fortunately, my husband, I was like, “I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out.”
I had nothing to transition to, and he was all on board about figuring that out, which really kinda crack the door in a very dark, deep cell that I put myself in and I saw the light for the first time. And I had no idea what the light was, I had no idea where it led to, but it also gave breath to that part of my soul that I didn’t know was being crushed.
I didn’t know existed within, didn’t know there was any other way of self-expression, other than working really hard and making a name for yourself.
~M: Yeah, it’s interesting that you share that part of the story. We are conditioned, I believe when we are growing up, and we go through high school, and then we’re groomed to go to college and we’re groomed to then have, at least in our era, I think it’s changing now, but there are a lot more entrepreneurial spirits in the younger generation, I think, that they see another way. And there wasn’t another acceptable way for us, right?
No [undetectable] you hear. Oh, you shouldn’t do that, that you can’t make any money off that.
~D: And there was that either you had a career… At least in my mind at that point, I won’t blanket this for everybody. It was either you have a successful career or you stay home and raise a family.
~D: And a lot of women did both, but it was that career where you really got noticed and you were expected once you started that to be able to handle both really well.
~M: Right. So how did you overcome all of those emotions that were flying at you when your husband helped you crack open, that armor that you were wearing, the mask, and you started to see some light and you weren’t quite sure what it was. I’m sure that was pretty scary, and there were a lot of emotions around, that probably just like Pandora’s box, flew out of that.
~D: Oh, it was then there was… Not only was it the recent emotions, but it was the… You talked that was that guilt. And it’s like, “How am I gonna survive?” And all that doubt and I don’t know anything else… And the disappointment, and the shame of what that looks like. And the only thing I had to go on at that time because I didn’t know myself, I didn’t trust myself, is I had to trust in somebody else’s [undetectable] and faith in me. And that again, I felt myself putting a lot of pressure because… Okay, now what if this fails, you know, what if I don’t live up to this expectation? And so, it wasn’t the saving grace, it actually created more voices and more demons if you will, and down about that. But I realized very quickly that the only thing that would change anything is if I took action and tried something. And that’s what thankfully, my husband kept saying is, “I don’t know, we’ll figure it out and you can always go back.”
And so we had done some real estate investing, so at that point, and so it was like, well maybe go into real estate, maybe I’ll focus on that part and perhaps get my license. And it was like … I knew I could do it, I knew the tenacity, and the focus, and the determination it took me to get to where I was, and those are very skills that I had. So as I begin to start seeing what I couldn’t do, versus what I didn’t want to do anymore. That started to shift things.
~M: I love that you said that because it’s so important. It’s what… I work on with clients a lot and that is the getting past the fear of stepping beyond your comfort zone and taking some action, giving it a try, giving something a try, and then stepping back and evaluating from there. It is… Action is… There is no faith without action, so faith in yourself requires you taking some action and someone having someone with faith in you to be your backbone for a bit and kind of push you forward, recognizing that you have the skills and the talent and it just requires a little faith in yourself. Taking that action is the most important first step. I love that you said that. Thank you, so much.
~D: Oh yes, absolutely. It is the bravest and the hardest step sometimes to take.
~M: It is indeed. So I am very eager to hear what you’re gonna share in our next segment, Diana. If we are paying attention to our journey there are beautiful lessons that we learn and I want you to talk about reconnecting with yourself, how to let those emotions be heard and finding your path and your purpose. So I invite everyone to stay tuned for the next segment with Diana.
~M: Hello and welcome to the conclusion of my chat with Diana Gogan. Having reinvented herself after a successful yet unfilling corporate career. She is now a spiritual life coach and a Wayfinder.
I just love that descriptor, Diana. She helps people find their way now the way she found her own way. I love that I’m María Tomás-Keegan and your host. This is part of my continuing series of interviews with brilliant and resilient women who have inspiring stories to tell and who are role models for the rest of us when it comes to learning to thrive.
Diana shared her story of success, disillusioned and reinvention, from a successful corporate business career to now helping women find their way.
Hello Diana, thanks for being with us.
~M: I am certain you have some very profound and compelling lessons to share with our audience today. You and I have been on similar paths in that corporate career, and behind the mask and wearing the armor. So I can’t wait to hear what you have learned through your journey that will now help other women. Please, please help us understand what those lessons are.
~D: I think one of the most exciting points is to be this far down that path. So my story happened in 2003, so I’ve got 16 years under my belt there. And one of the lessons that I probably didn’t realize until years later that was very profound was the ability to let go of expectations.
And that’s a hard one, I still work through that today. And as I look back, I sure briefly before that transitioning out of that corporate career, and then I moved into a real estate career. And I was four years successful realtor then we decided to move states. It was during the downturn. I didn’t wanna go someplace I didn’t know anybody and we start a career, but during that time, I begin to feed my soul, I begin to recognize a very large passionate spirit that existed within me and began to express that I learned. I took some coaching courses, I took energy healing. I started doing all of these things, and then I did was beginning to form in the back of my head, but ultimately, that’s what I wanted to do to… And so this move, it was like the perfect time.
My husband and I both kinda laughed as we crossed the border from Utah to Arizona ’cause that we were having gonna have our mid-life crisis at that point, we’ve both left our careers and businesses behind and I was going to down and open a way coaching practice. And of course, through all of that, there was a lot of doubt… The move, there was a lot of doubt. There was “Can I do it?” and “How am I gonna meet people?” and all of these things going through my head but I had learned from leaving that first big step of leaving the corporate job was to just start taking action.
And some days, sometimes a leap across again Grand Canyon, those days are few and far between, most days is that little single-foot step forward, sometimes it’s an inch, and sometimes it’s a foot, but it’s just keeping moving forward. And as I look back, I see how from that point, my husband said, “You have a choice to make, to where I am now, had I held on to an expectation of what I should do and what I should be, who I should be, I would have ended up exactly like I was in my corporate career. That was a model I had followed in. Now if you had told me 16 years ago that I would be coaching people, I would be talking to people about their soul, and their passions, and their desires, that I would have courses in my practice, which I love… That’s a whole another story. That was a 45-year dream that came true. But if you had told me that I would be coaching people using courses, you were absolutely nuts! So that’s just crazy.
So, as I look back and I see all those different steps of evolution, and how one thing led to another, has led to another and led to another, it has been the most beautiful journey in reflection.
Living it, sometimes is a completely different thing because we don’t know what we don’t know.
And so that has to be one of the most treasured gifts that I received from this is learning to go with the flow, learning to connect with my spirit, my soul, learning to give it a voice and using it to help me navigate so that I know what feels right and what feels off. And to be able to not only live in that realm of feeling but also to logistically and logically know from experience, that those feelings are right on. They’re dead on. And having that trust in that, so that perhaps that second thing is really learning to trust myself.
I know who I am. I have a long way from knowing all that I am capable of and all of who I am, but that’s what’s exciting about that because at this point now I have the experience, I have the tools, I know… Have some ideas, have some dreams, absolutely, it’s not like I’m walking blindly out there, but just to be able to let go of what it must or should look like. And what opportunities come up, it’s like when you drive with your GPS, you plug in the location, but you have no idea… The twist, the turns, the redirects, that completely… Sometimes it takes you completely off course, you have no idea what all of that experience happens between here and there, and that’s really where the joy and the juicy part of that is.
~M: Oh, I love that. You said several things. Letting go of your expectations is so important. And it’s so, as you said, it is so hard to do and it takes courage to have a dream and not be attached to how it will happen.
~D: Oh yeah, that’s big.
~M: It is big.
It is big because we, again, we are conditioned to be in control of how it all happens. That’s a biggie… Letting go of our expectations. I thought about something as you were talking, I was thinking about the question you asked yourself. What if I fail? And I love to turn that around. So what if you couldn’t fail? What if there’s no such thing as failure, there’s just a lesson to be learned.
~D: Absolutely, and I agree completely with that.
~M: And then you talked about taking that step. Being in a forward motion will always keep us from getting stuck where we are.
And I love the way you say it, whether it’s an inch or a foot, whether it’s a toe in the water or you jump right in, it doesn’t really matter, it’s that just that forward motion that will allow you to be looking through the windshield, instead of the rearview mirror.
~D: Oh, yes. And I always loved that analogy of looking through the windshield where you’re going.
~M: Diana, thank you so much. I think this is an inspiring story. I can’t wait to… For lots of… Lots and lots of women to listen to your story. I think there is a lot to be learned from you. And these stories can be difficult to share, so I’m so happy that you have the courage to be vulnerable and to share it with us here.
~D: Oh, thank you for the opportunity. It’s always part of the growth and healing, right? There’s always part of that something that I learned from this as well, and so it’s been an absolute pleasure to share.
~M: Great! I’m so glad. And thank you all for watching. This series of interviews is inspired by my latest book, Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph.
It’s now available on Amazon, and Kindle, and Paperback along with its companion journal, and I invite you to look for it and share it with the women in your life so none of us will ever feel like we are alone.
Many of us have gone through similar experiences, and we’re here to help and I believe it’s our time to thrive. So will you join me in that?
And Diana, before I let everyone go, please tell us the best way to reach out to you.
~D: In this day and age, there’s lots of ways to reach out. A couple of places I would refer to: If you’re on Facebook, Fire Horse Ranch is my business page. I would love to connect with you there. Fire Horse Ranch is also the website, or you can reach me at Diana@FireHorseRanch.com.
~M: Perfect! Thank you so much and thank you, everyone, for watching. ‘Till next time. I’m María Tomás-Keegan.