What You DO Is Not Who You ARE

Yesterday, at the close of a brilliant coaching session, my coach relayed the following words,

“Brooke, you are not the things that you DO.
Motherhood, Teacher, Business owner… that isn’t who you ARE.
You’re Brooke.
Mothering, photography, your business..are things that you DO.
It’s important to know the difference.”

The comment was actually quite unsettling to me.

I was most unnerved by her grouping motherhood into that mantra. Motherhood is something that you DO, not something that you ARE? But of course I am a mother! I could accept what she was saying about the other things… but motherhood???

The irony.

I have always been uncomfortable the label of “mommy”. Not because I don’t like mothering, but because I feel like too often women confine themselves within that box. They call themselves a Mommy Blogger, a Momtographer, a Mompreneur, a Stay at Home Mom… the label totally rubs me wrong. Even though I’m every single one of those things myself! I just don’t outright call myself that!

Despite my turning a blind eye to those titles, I’ve been guilty of exactly what she says… looking at my roles as something I AM, and not something I DO.

Is there really a difference?

Turns out there is, even if it’s just a matter of syntax.

For example:

When I think of motherhood as something I DO, I end up focusing on how I can nurture, teach, protect, and inspire.

When I think of motherhood as something I AM, I coast. I go through the motions and see it simply as a hat I wear. It’s part of who I am. It’s routine. It’s default. It’s autopilot.

When I see motherhood as something that I DO, I see it as something that can be practiced. I can hone my skills.

When I see motherhood as something that I DO, I can maintain my own identity. Maintaining my own identity also makes it easier for me to separate my self-worth from how good I’m doing at motherhood.

I am not as easily shamed by moments that I don’t DO motherhood well. It’s not who I am, it’s what I do–and what I do I can improve upon.

What you do is not who you are.

“Think of yourself as a nugget of gold.” My coach continued.
“You are what you are. Your worth is infinite. You’re gold!
But it’s up to you to choose how you want to mold it.
You can mold it into whatever shape of motherhood you want it to be.
You can mold it into any shape of business woman you want to be and so forth.
But what you do (how you mold yourself) is not the same as who you are (your worth is already determined and inherently divine.)”

If I treat those different responsibilities in my life as something that I DO, I know I’ll end up doing a better job. And quite possibly, end up learning more about the golden individual that I AM in the process.

So what do you think? Do you define yourself by what you do?

bwselfie Brooke Snow is a photographic artist and delights in the pursuit of a meaningful life. Sign up for her FREE e course “Living A Thriving Life” to learn more about how to find true balance in your life. Brooke lives in Northern Utah with her calm husband and adventurous 4 year old son.

8 Responses

  1. Brooke, thank you so much for sharing this insight. I too felt very unsettled when I first started reading this. I have had an incredible rough last two years since my second daughter was born. I love my girls more than life itself but I fell like in some ways I have lost my identity. I have been incredibly hard on myself and discouraged. Maybe, just maybe this might be the answer for me. I have always felt that “mother” is something that I am. But in reality motherhood is something that I CHOSE to DO. Yes I was born with the ability to bear children but I chose to become a mother therefore I am choosing to do motherhood. As a musician this resonates with me a lot. I chose to major in music therefore I chose to practice, learn, perform and study to become a better musician. As I apply that to motherhood I realize now that I am not a failure if I do not get it right every day. I chose to do this and therefore I need to allow myself room to grow, learn, make mistakes and just enjoy what I chose to DO instead of lament over the fact that I am not the mother I think I should be right now. A weight has been lifted from my heart and shoulders today. Thank you so much. Hugs!

  2. Brooke, I love this idea–the separating out who you are from what you do. Thanks for choosing to write with substance–I’m going to be meditating on this today while I fold laundry. Who am I? A child of the King. How will that influence what I do and how I choose to do it? I am excited to ponder the possibilities!

  3. Thank you, Brooke! I’ve struggled with this concept myself. I’ve had people tell me that my role as MOTHER is the most important thing to be. That that label is what comes first. I’ve always said to them, NO. I’m not JUST A MOTHER. That’s not what defines me. I am ME first and foremost. Mother or motherhood are just labels that that I can apply from time to time. But they do not solely define me. Nor do the other labels that I wear from time to time define who I am. So I love being able to think about this in terms of what I do…not who I am. Being told that I am only important in terms of my motherhood sounds so belittling to me. I am so much more than that. Again, THANK YOU! You stated everything so clearly.

  4. Beautiful article Brooke. I appreciate the words that led me to think about my own role as a Mother. It has by far been the most amazing journey for me and I am so grateful to be a Mother of three beautiful, now all adult daughters. I think this very topic, in light of, we are not what we do… is something that needs to be shared, so that we as women can better understand who we are, is not what we do. WELL SAID!

    I’m pondering in greater detail today on this one. Thanks for making me ‘think’.


  5. This is a real great insight – I think it will be freeing for me to get into the habit of thinking of momhood as what I “do” and not who I “am.” This said, I am a little confused about the “who I am” part. Can we have an identity that is NOT in relation to someone or something else? Even if we see ourselves in relation to God… doesn’t that leave room to judge if we are following “His ways” to the best of our ability or not? It seems like we can fall short on the doing but ALSO on the “being.” Of course, separating the two still seems key… but ultimately what this says to me is that I have to put “do” and “be” in two different categories & work on the “do” part by honing skills (disciplining, coming up with fun crafts, homeschooling, cleaning the house, laundry system, etc.) and then – separately – working on my own character (the “being” part) that I bring to the table no matter what my “job” is. I do think that “being” part needs attention and care, though. I don’t always thinking I’m living as a “gold” self… sometimes I let ME rust-up a little bit & I need to clean off the tarnish. Just my musings.

    1. Great thoughts Jen! Syntax aside, It has helped me to think of motherhood in particular as something I “do”, simply for me to maintain my self worth separately. It’s really easy for me to judge my worth based on how well I “do” things. If I have a bad mother day where I lose my temper, I can be so quick to instantly believe that I’m altogether a bad person for messing up. This has helped me to remember that motherhood is something that I can practice and get better at with time since it’s something I “do”. When all is said and done, of course I “am” a lot of things 🙂 But most importantly I’m simply me…someone who can easily get forgotten amongst all the other roles.

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