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The Difference Between Doing and Being

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The idea for this post started with a very different purpose and, as things so often go, my heart led me in a different direction.

I initially planned to post today about how awesome failing is because, ya know, after all the years we spend at school being taught that failure is wrong, it actually turns out that making mistakes and inevitably failing is…part of life. Part of learning. Part of working out what you do and don’t want.

All the good stuff.

While thinking about my conflicting love and fear of failure, the idea of ‘I’m a failure’ versus ‘I failed at…’  sprang to mind. The difference between who you are (being) and what you did (doing) can be the difference between getting back up and trying again, or putting your self worth, your future, and your entire identity on the line.

And then – as my brain likes to connect dots – I was reminded of something I read in The Gifts of Imperfections by shame and vulnerability researcher and best selling author, Brene Brown. She talks about the difference between shame (‘I’m bad’) versus guilt (‘I did something bad’):


“I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”


Can you see the difference?

In the whole ego-based identity crisis we probably go through numerous times throughout our lives, it occurs to me that we often get our wires crossed.

We can confuse what we did or said in a situation (doing) with who we are at our core (being).

Have you ever found yourself rehashing a situation in your life and thinking, ‘I’m a bad person’ or ‘I’m so stupid’, or ‘I’m a failure’?

If you haven’t, well done, you! Seriously. It is so often that we start to form beliefs about who we are based on things that we perceive others to think of us or what we think of ourselves as a result of a one-off situation.



The difference between doing and being is:

:: You might have done something bad but that doesn’t make you a bad person (but how can you do better next time?)

:: You are might have tried something and failed but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure (and correct me if I’m wrong, but did you grow and learn from that?).

:: I can guarantee you’ve done some stupid shit in your time but that doesn’t make you stupid (haven’t we all, it’s part of the crazy fun that is being imperfectly human!)



The difference is being bad or stupid or a failure is tied to how you see yourself, how you identify. If you believe that, then your brain will continue to find ways to prove that.

Even without intending to, you will subconsciously make decisions or look for evidence to support the theory. You will find yourself repeating the same stories over and over.

However, when you do something stupid or do something that fails, it is much easier to brush it off as a life experience or learn from it and move on because you don’t believe that it’s proof of WHO YOU ARE.

It’s just a mistake you made, an error in judgement, a one off thing that you have the choice to learn from or to repeat another time.



Have you found yourself confusing doing and being?

+ Next time you hear yourself identifying as something negative, can you find a way to switch your language?

+ Can you shift your mindset a tiny bit and consider ‘what if this wasn’t true?’

+ Can you give yourself a break and take some time out to acknowledge the parts of you that are the opposite with this identity you’ve been associating with. Call it out, call out your ego or your language and find a way to counter the negative thoughts or words with positive reinforcement.



The way we form our identity is complex and goes back to when we first started getting an understanding of the world. By using words that can be misinterpreted, we can find ourselves years later trying to undo belief systems that we set up as children – and, trust me, that stuff runs deep.

This is something that, more often than not, takes inner work with a kinesiologist, psychologist, or counsellor but taking little steps to shine a light on how you describe or identify yourself is a huge first step.


Have you found yourself confusing the difference between doing and being? Share below! And if you know someone who could do with a little reminder that there is a difference, please share this with them.




1 Comment

  1. Timothy Odufuwa

    I really appreciated this explanation. Have a blessed day!


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