Finding your spirit animal

A shamanistic tradition that can't be discovered on BuzzFeed

As I sat in Alderman this morning — scrolling through BuzzFeed and procrastinating (is that redundant?) — I came across an unpleasant surprise: a quiz titled, “Which Food Network Chef is Your Spirit Animal?” I mean, really? First of all, I am pretty sure none of the Food Network Chefs are animals, so that makes zero sense. Secondly, taking a quiz to discover your spirit animal is like asking a Magic 8 ball whether or not God is real — absolutely ridiculous.

Spirit animals have become easily obtainable, handed out like Halloween candy, and the process has become over-simplified. You can’t just be a giraffe because you have a super long neck and you’re a vegetarian. Likewise, your spirit animal doesn’t get to be a golden retriever puppy because you’re loyal and playful and you think dogs are cute.

Let’s get something straight: you don’t get to choose your spirit animal — your spirit animal chooses you. It’s a moment of connection, an interaction you have to wait for. It’s not as easy as deciding your favorite color, book or Disney Princess and then clicking submit. It’s not calculated or well thought out.

Though people today are eager to call any celebrity or figure they admire a spirit animal, according to the Shamanistic tradition, spirit animals come into our lives for a purpose and can change across time and place. They emerge to empower and comfort us when we need it most, and we get no say in any of it.

This summer, I found my spirit animal and honestly, I was kind of pissed. I’m embarrassed to even tell you what it is: a cat. Yep. Not a lion or a tiger or even a bobcat — just a cat. Now don’t get me wrong, I love cats, but I was hoping for something a bit more exotic and exciting, like a toucan or a kangaroo. There is no denying it, though. Cats are my spirit animal whether I like it or not.

If you’re still reading at this point, there’s a 100 percent chance you think I’m crazy, but I think there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this. To most of us Type A, perfection-seeking University students, it’s a frustrating thought to give up control. To let go means to lose. To blindly believe means to admit defeat and to show weakness. But letting the universe conspire to help you find something greater? To me, that’s the opposite of weakness. That’s the culmination of success, strength and wisdom. To know you’re not in control of every little thing, to admit you don’t have all of the answers…now that’s powerful stuff.

Finding your spirit animal is magical, inexplicable, enrapturing and real. It transcends your favorite pizza topping and what type of doughnut you’re craving. It goes beyond anything that even the most complicated algorithm — or BuzzFeed article — can calculate.

So, who knows. Maybe if we turn away from our Magic 8 balls and surrender our BuzzFeed futures, our true spirit animals will find us, helping us learn more about ourselves along the way.

Peyton’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at

Published April 1, 2014 in Life

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