Skunk Lessons

Skunk… tell me the story,So I will know it well.Of how to attractAnd how to repel.(Jamie Sams)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Thank you, Aretha!

And thank you, skunk.

Jamie Sams, author of the above poem, is the co-author of a series of animal cards based on Native American understandings of what we can learn from different animals. Her take on skunks is right in line with so much of what comes up with clients in session. I just had to share it, along with some of my own thoughts.

It’s about valuing what we bring By nature, skunks are very playful and nonchalant. At the same time, they have this sort of “Mess with me, hear?” thing going. It kind of reminds me of the character Curly in the movie City Slickers.

Billy Crystal’s uber-urban, utterly neurotic midlife-crisis character, Mitch, is totally intimidated by Curly, the harder-than-boulders, exceedingly well-seasoned cowboy trail boss who has no patience for trivialities. At one point, Mitch is running wild with his Curly anxiety, spewing fantastic stories about the horrible things Curly may have done to other people. As he’s spewing, Curly quietly comes up behind him. Completely ignoring Mitch’s insanity, Curly tells them all it’s time to go to bed. Mitch turns around and sheepishly says, in that inimitable Billy Crystal way, “Sorry…?” Curly, completely unphased, without missing a beat tells Mitch, “I crap bigger’n you.”

Curly skunks Skunks are like Curly. They have nothing to prove. They know what they bring to the table. They value it. If you fail to value skunk’s abilities, skunk has no problem leaving you with a reminder that will settle in your pores and prove impossible to forget moving forward.

Go ahead. Disrespect a skunk. I double dog dare you, no take backs. I’ll be watching from wwwaaaaayyyy ooovvvveeerrrr hhheeeerrrrrrreeee…

It’s about reputation When we know who we are and value what we bring, we carry ourselves differently. We don’t shrink or hold back for fear that someone won’t value us; We value ourselves. We have confidence that if someone does not appreciate what we offer, we will simply walk away. We don’t waste time trying to “make” someone see something in us that they don’t wish to see. We don’t need them to understand us or value us. In fact, we don’t need them at all if they don’t value us.

Like Skunk, we can define ourselves so clearly that it is written all over us, like bold white stripes down a deep brown-black fur coat. There is no confusion when looking at a skunk. You don’t mistake a skunk for a groundhog or a raccoon. You can spot a skunk from quite a ways a way. In fact, they tend to sashay those striped bodies almost like they’re walking the runway at Furry Fashion Week. (See example here.)

It’s about boundaries With that self-confidence, free from the pressure of explaining or justifying himself, Skunk keeps whatever boundaries Skunk wants to keep. He doesn’t have to be nasty about it. Skunk is clear that his boundaries are his to manage. He does not need your cooperation. If you traipse across his clear lines, he will either walk away like Curly, or quite memorably spray you. His reputation for asserting his boundaries precedes him. The wise pay attention. The un-wise learn the hard way.

Not only does this kind of boundary-keeping protect us, it can also make us magnetic to others who want that level of freedom and authenticity in their social connections. The people around us can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they don’t have to guess where our lines are. They don’t have to wonder if we are ok with them. They also have “permission” to manage their own boundaries, without apology or fear.

By respecting our boundaries, we invite others into a much more relaxed, much more authentic kind of relationship. When we aren’t preoccupied with social worry, we have room to loosen up the constraints around our creativity. We can take risks because we aren’t busy trying to prove who we are or who we aren’t. We can just… be.

The Big Stink Here’s what I learn from Skunk. (What you learn is on you, but I’d love to hear about it.)

  • Don’t be afraid to make a big stink, especially if what someone else does violates your boundaries. Those boundaries are yours and yours alone to mind, so do it well.
  • Disqualify anyone from close relationship who doesn’t see and value who you are and what you bring.
  • Wear that unique soul mark with pride. It defines you. If someone doesn’t like it, you don’t need them.

Thanks, Skunk.

(And here’s a video of baby skunks, because they’re just so danged cute! You’re welcome.)

....................................................................................................................................................... Are you feeling squishy about flaunting your skunk stripes? Contact Tiffany today and get started on creating the life you want.