alt Whitman famously wrote that he contained multitudes, and while Whitman was predictably a Gemini, I’ve found this to be true across the board. We may all crave labels and categories — hence our gravitation toward astrology in the first place, I think — but each and every sign offers fertile ground for contradiction. Below, you’ll find (what I believe to be) your sign’s most pressing and prevalent contradiction. Your upbringing, environment and personal experiences will greatly influence which side of the coin you tend to land on, but you probably exhibit aspects of both. We’re all just flesh and stardust, after all — never really created to make perfect sense.
Many Aries natives boast a rare combination: natural leadership skills paired with a genuine desire to lead. Because of this innate ability, you have strong conviction and rarely hesitate to charge ahead with your own ideas. Aries is an ambitious sign that will gladly take initiative. This can sometimes spill over and become overconfidence, leading you to believe that you’re always right.
All fire signs share this duality to some extent, but because of Aries’ social cardinal quality, you can be extra sensitive to your own perceived shortcomings. You are constantly trying to view yourself from outside perspectives. As a natural leader, you want to be respected and admired, and you tend to put undue pressure on yourself to achieve your goals and meet the high bar you’ve set for yourself.
As a Taurus, you have an extraordinary sense of purpose. You put a great deal of thought into your decisions and once they are made, you follow through. No questions asked. This persistence and stubbornness is especially admirable in professional circumstances, but you also make for a devoted friend and partner. You seek consistency and habitual action; you love to see things through and rarely, if ever, quit.
Taurus is also a sign greatly associated with comfort. You crave luxury, the security of materialism. This often means that you’re a hard worker, but it can also mean that you tend to take advantage of luxuries when you have them. You love to pamper yourself and may find it difficult to pull yourself out of an easy routine. If you chill too hard for too long, you fall into a slump.
Gemini is a highly communicative sign. Many are talkative, expressive and incredibly easy to engage in conversation. Intellectual conversation, in particular, is where a Gemini thrives. You need constant stimulation and you love to learn. For a Gemini, gathering information and learning about others is especially appealing because it helps you learn about yourself.
Gemini is also an extremely introspective sign. You may find yourself desiring more personal space than the average person; you love to explore your own self, to think critically and unpack emotions. Many Geminis make great artists — particularly writers and poets — because their inner monologues whir constantly. It’s true that Geminis need constant stimulation, but many will find a good book, an interesting podcast, a provocative movie or any kind of private self-expression equally as fulfilling as a robust discussion.
The classic Cancer sensitivity is usually a little exaggerated in pop culture, but the stereotype is based in some reality. It’s likely that you get easily insulted and are quick to feel attacked, which leads to the perception that you need to be coddled. You have incredible healing and self-protective abilities, so your instinct is to guard your vulnerability; it may take you a long time to open up. When you do develop an intimate relationship, however, you want to be smothered with affection.
While a Cancer will generally enjoy being taken care of, it is second nature for them to care for others. This makes sense, I think, because to be emotionally intelligent and strong for others, you typically need to be emotionally sensitive yourself. Cancers are famously empathetic. You are the best person to talk to and the best shoulder to cry on because you highly value loyalty and understanding.
Leo vainglory is renowned for a reason. This sign is associated with entertainment, performance, expression and presentation; in short, you are probably obsessed with yourself. You go after what you want with ferocity and passion, and you will use any accrued power or influence to stay in power and wield that influence. You have no problem being the center of attention and usually enjoy having all eyes on you. You want to be well liked, but you value your own goals and wellness more than your reputation; you will put yourself first if you feel that someone is trying to water you down or hold you back.
Leos gravitate towards the spotlight, but they will also gladly assume the role of caretaker. Leos are fiercely loyal to the people they love and self-sacrifice can become second nature to them. You’ll go out of your way to make life better for those around you, for example, and you love giving presents and showing people affection. Your generosity also extends to people you may not necessarily know, as Leo has an extremely protective nature. You are eager to speak out against injustice, give to those who are lacking and use your influence to better the lives of friends, family, the community or a specific cause.
Virgos are largely perfectionists, which makes you difficult to impress. You tend to be critical and often rather skeptical (but I’m sure you’d pause here to correct me that you’re actually just realistic). You set high standards for yourself, and you can be very particular about the world around you as well, often making snap judgements about others. You have no patience for those who you perceive as rude, disrespectful, careless or aggressively egotistical. Your need to analyze can sometimes come across as snobbishness and elitism.
Luckily, Virgos are typically mature beyond their years, which allows you to learn how to express your expectations more compassionately. You can easily learn to have a more open mind or to give others a chance after negative first impressions. Virgo is actually an unusually sympathetic sign, which often manifests in soft spots for animals and humble, underappreciated or shy individuals. Above all, you value kindness and humility.
Libras are interested in harmony and balance, tending towards a calm and peaceful demeanor. Your communicative nature and ability to carefully weigh perspectives makes you an accomplished mediator. Your charisma and aversion to manipulation makes you a valuable, fair negotiator. You are reasonable, understanding and usually able to make others feel at ease. You crave respect and hate seeming biased.
Striving for harmony and balance does not necessarily mean that you will find it, especially when it comes to your own inner chaos. You can easily become anxious when confronted with unfairness or unpleasantness. The extremely high value that you place on equality can cause you to feel slighted easily and force you into engaging with tit-for-tat behavior. Your natural aversion to conflict leads you to avoid any sort of disagreement or outward ugliness, which can then lead to passive aggression and sugar-coated hostility. Everyone has opinions. Everyone gets angry sometimes. But you will often refuse to openly express these things.
Scorpio is the sign of extremes and intensity. You are determined, which is admirable — but pushing forward relentlessly with a singular and self-interested goal can lead you to selfishness and insensitivity. You are passionate but also obsessive, which means you can easily spiral, follow destructive paths, become vengeful or engage in manipulative behavior. Toxic relationships and unhealthy habits can be difficult for you to break.
Scorpios have a strong dark side but are constantly seeking the light. Your impressive ability for self-destruction means that you can rise from the ashes unlike anybody else; you have unique potential for self-discovery and transformation. Your determination and passion can be channeled into self-improvement and positive, healthy ambition. You have the ability to move mountains for yourself and your loved ones.
As a general rule, a Sagittarius doesn’t like to take herself too seriously. You’re usually the life of the party due to your easy charisma and knack for humor. You reject dullness on principle and focus on making the most out of life; you love to travel and seek adventure. Sometimes you feel indestructible and free of regular limitations. This infectious optimism makes you an extremely positive presence. You are jovial and talkative with a rosy outlook on most things.
Sagittarius is also the sign associated with philosophy, religion, ideas, morals, growth, discovery and wisdom. While you probably approach your day-to-day life with a carefree, happy-go-lucky attitude, you are also on a constant quest for deeper truth and knowledge. You hate seeming ignorant and have a genuinely curious nature; you want to get to the root of problems and events, understand life on a more existential scale and understand yourself in an honest way. You also believe in your ability to enact real change, especially by sharing information and raising awareness.
Capricorns are famously independent, self-sufficient and highly capable people. Your sense of commitment is almost unparalleled. You hate giving up on something and do not let things go easily. This often translates into impressive ambition, motivation and resilience. You don’t like to get down on yourself or blame bad luck; instead, you power through unfortunate circumstances and probably draw plenty of admiration in doing so.
Capricorns do tend towards leadership, but not in a stereotypical way. In fact, you are usually the person pulling the levers behind the scenes. Capricorn is an analytical sign that prefers to be cautious; you find yourself stepping back and observing every angle, preparing for every outcome before committing to a plan of action. You tend to be very suspicious of people upon first meeting them and usually take a while to warm up — you do not expose your vulnerability easily and strive to understand the people around you as fully as possible.
Aquarians are the true humanitarians of the zodiac. They are usually progressive, forward-thinking people who value all people individually and equally. There are notable exceptions, of course, but regardless of politics and beliefs, Aquarians are usually collaborative, curious and dynamic problem-solvers. You hate feeling stagnant, which makes you highly adaptable.
Aquarians also tend to be the most opinionated in the zodiac. Once you set your mind on something, once you formulate a comprehensive and informed opinion, it’s nearly impossible to get you to change your mind. You tend to have a strong — yet highly personal — moral compass, so though you strive to be accepting of everyone, you can become judgmental or disapproving. Your stubbornness saturates every aspect of your life. Once you become emotionally attached, you cling to people, places and things.
Pisces is sometimes viewed as the final stage of evolution in the zodiac (*coughs* Rihanna), which usually means that Pisceans are mature, spiritually developed and suffused with compassion. You are uniquely tuned to emotional cues; your hypersensitivity to feelings and auras makes it easier for you to empathize, and it’s instinctual for you to care deeply for others. You tend to be helpful and nurturing with a talent for reassuring and calming the people around you.
A Pisces’ emotional maturity does not automatically grant you with emotional availability. It’s easy for you to conceal your own emotions, and you may find it much more difficult to open up to people the way that others open up to you. You are imaginative, idealistic, observant and wary of being taken advantage of — so you can often feel isolated and disconnected, as if on the outside looking in.
Illustrations by Allison Filice.