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Q: How can I live true to myself when I often feel like I have to be a certain way to fit in?

Melancholy woman resting at the terrace
martin-dm / Getty Images

A: Just as trees bloom in their own distinct way, we should strive to live in the way that is most natural for us. This is the purpose of our Buddhist practice. Nichiren Daishonin also stressed that our essential identity is “something that was not worked for, that was not improved upon, but that exists just as it always has” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 141). It’s fine to just be who you are. You are worthy of respect just as you are. Pretending to be something you’re not or putting on airs actually diminishes and weakens you.

That said, there is a difference between “being who you are” and “staying as you are.” If you content yourself with staying as you are, you’ll never grow or develop. By deeply pondering the questions of who you really are and what your purpose in life is, and by making effort after effort and tirelessly challenging yourself, you will bring to blossom the flower of your mission in life. (Ikeda Sensei, The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, pp. 125–26)

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