e’re often our own worst enemies, but our tactics for self-sabotage are as varied as a box of chocolates. Are we chronic procrastinators, night owls when we should be early birds, bidden by jealousy? There are so many avenues to getting in our own way that I decided to organize them by zodiac sign. Take a look below to find yours — I’d say “you never know what you’re gonna get,” but I doubt yours will come as much of a surprise.
Aries: Winning the battles and losing the war
The ram is good at butting heads and getting their blood hot. They are less good at asking (or even caring) why there had to be a rumble at all. Aries feel alive when they are in conflict — or in the sheer throes of creative fury — but can sometimes get into it with no end-game. They are pure passion and motivation unanchored to purpose, which requires patience (what is that?) and sticktoitiveness (again, what?). But no idea is truly great until it’s implemented and given a chance to grow, and this is where the ram gets its horns tangled. Without a longer perspective and the willingness to commit to at least one project, they won’t be able to build anything great or destroy something terrible, whichever of the two is on the menu.
Taurus: Pursuing too much of a good thing
Taurus is the sign of rich, decadent chocolate. It’s the sign of everything that’s too much. Taurus culture is one of indulgence and good taste, and once they fall in love (with weighted blankets, with their first kiss in eighth grade, with stand-up comedy), that is it. No need to explore more options, because they’ve found the sweet thing that lights up their limbic mind like a Christmas tree. The superpower of the Taurus is that they can commit to things in a superhuman way — they are the overcorrection for Aries energy. But with that great power comes the responsibility to let things go. Personal evolution and change is a requirement, not an elective, and for the sweet bull who just wants to hang out in their sunny patch of grass, it can be more difficult for them than anyone else to move when the clouds roll in.
Gemini: Scattering their energy
I was going to make a profound statement about how Geminis talk to everyone but don’t always listen to themselves, and then I got distracted. I started to open some tabs about how companies might want to monetize vocal data and how constructions of masculinity in fairy tales has underpinned toxic culture for hundreds of years. Then I did a minute-long plank and texted 1,000 people. And then I thought of how Geminis, in their infinite lust for knowledge, would rather hurt themselves and learn something than protect themselves from the experience, and I thought that would be the angle. And then I realized I was embodying the very thing I needed to write about.
Geminis are so good at scattering their attention so that they can engage with and process a number of ideas at once. But they are so, so bad at harnessing that focus to make one thing at a time productive. When you’re an air sign (intelligent but disconnected to real-world consequences) who is also mutable (agents of change, baby), how can we be blamed for making incremental progress on a bunch of priorities at once?
Cancer: Keeping their wounds alive
It is the Cancer ethos never to forget, not only because they are nostalgic like that, but because they are the personal historians of the zodiac. Through their energy, we keep and retain all the painful memories that help us make better decisions in the future. While that’s a necessary function, Cancers are notorious for nurturing grudges that can last… all their lives. They are still mad about the first time their parents ever told them no. They feel the sting of kindergarten rejection in every adult romance. Even if the details fade, the emotional scars are preserved in crisp, pin-sharp color forever. Cancers are motivated to build security — the soft crab meat hidden behind the impenetrable shell — because they actually want to keep their sweet, innocent childhood souls intact. But if you live in the past, you’ll never have a future.
Leos: Demanding love before giving love
Leos were born with the thesis that they are special, and they spend their lives in joyful pursuit of confirming that. The radical self-love they practice is both radical in that loving oneself so much is rare, and also because the amount is radically large. They are their own manic pixie dream girls. Leos want power and loyalty, but unlike a Capricorn or a Scorpio, they want it to come from your genuine, overflowing love for them, not from obligation. They will text you out of nowhere to ask what you think their biggest strength is — and it’s not because they are preparing for an interview. They are just curious about what you think about their favorite subject: themselves. The difference between a Leo’s warm, inviting self-esteem and their “hey, that’s just who I am” narcissism is their willingness to give love before demanding others surrender their hearts and minds.
Virgos: Being as mean to you as they are to themselves
Virgos can be so, so hard on themselves — so they may not be very nice to you, either. The resting state of a Virgo is finicky discomfort because they are beset with the uncanny analytical clarity (a gift from their ruler, Mercury) to see how imperfect the world really is. But while the other signs can make peace with an impure state of affairs (or at least work within it), Virgos are grinding against entropy all the time. That’s how they serve the world — by crankily trying to make it better. As such, their love language is complaints. Not the innocent ribbing that goes too far (oh hi, Sagittarius) or the hangry low-blow (hello, Aries), but a precise, cutting, ruthless dressing down that makes you question if they even like you? But of course, they love you — they’d never waste their time shoving bitter medicine down your throat if they didn’t. No spoonful of honey, though.
Libra: Masking rage with diplomacy
The Libra desire to please is so real. They are downright athletic in their pursuit of popularity. If there’s a club, it doesn’t really matter what it’s for, they want in. They want to be prom queen, president, maid of honor even if they exchange texts once every six months excitedly promising to catch up soon and never do. Libra energy is partnership-oriented, which doesn’t always manifest through straight-up romance. They believe in the power of cooperation, and so their weapon is refined diplomacy to help them navigate any sticky politics to emerge as everyone’s number one BFF. But that genial demeanor can become a thin film over the very real rage they feel when wronged (or upstaged) by a friend. Even when they truly hate someone, their desire to be liked by them can lead them to maintain covertly toxic relationships, leaving only passive aggressive avenues to air their grievances, when all they need to do is state their beef and walk away.
Scorpio: Demanding trust but rarely trusting
Scorpio is a power sign, which means they have the power and you don’t. Their mission is not about finding equilibrium. Their streets are not two-ways. And a Scorpio, being among the most deeply sensitive, intuitive, and loving, must completely trust whomever they give their heart to. In the best cases, that trust is earned naturally through years of fidelity and mutual support. But on the darker, moral hazard end of the spectrum, Scorpios are suspicious researchers, furiously searching through phone records or diagramming a web of Instagram connections to prove their insecure suspicions that someone close to them is going to betray them. And in that drama, they are the unfaithful themselves. If they ever learned someone was peering at their incognito web practices without transparently disclosing their intentions (and social security number and five best passwords, just in case), that would be treason, of course. They would be cast out of the circle of trust. But trust is inherently unstable under that paradigm, and until a Scorpio learns to surrender their suspicions without demanding (or stealing) proof, they won’t be able to enjoy (or earn) the unqualified fealty they so desire from others.
Sagittarius: Dishing it but not taking it
When a centaur waxes philosophical at length, they always end up accidentally communicating one central truth: They are totally full of it. Sagittarians are jovial and intellectual, but they are often in it more for the love of the ego than the love of the game. They are smart enough to construct elegant humblebrags but not self-aware enough to abandon the tactic. This doesn’t come from a dark place — they just want to play, and ideas are their preferred medium. But while a Virgo or a Capricorn, for instance, likes to earn their accolades by the book, a Sagittarius is all about improvising their way to the top. Who can wing it better than they can? And while they certainly have talent on the fly, they don’t always know how to receive the harsh-but-necessary feedback that would perfect (or almost perfect) their long-winded musings. Things like evidence, research or another, sharper critic’s argument can be immaterial to them if it constricts their ability to fake it and make it all at once. They don’t mind being foolish, but they hate playing the fool.
Capricorn: Competing in spite of themselves
I had a Capricorn friend in college who helped me rush to finish a final paper that I, disorganized Gemini, completely forgot about. I wrote through the night, taking her cues and edits, and came up with something decent enough to present, red-eyed, the very next afternoon. I was thrilled that I was able to pull off a reasonably coherent argument, and the professor seemed pleased. Then my friend raised her hand during the Q&A to challenge me on why I used a particular example… that she had suggested I use just a few hours ago. When I asked her what the fuck that was all about, she admitted she felt a little insecure that I was doing well and wanted to make sure our professor remembered how smart she was, too, just in case my paper threatened her A. (We both got As.) That’s the Capricorn in a nutshell. They want their friends to be the best version of themselves, but like Pygmalion falling in love with his own Galatea, they can’t help competing with their own creations. The need to win can override their allegiance to their loved ones, which can leave them with few allies.
Aquarius: Being the center of their progressive politics
All’s fair in love and revolution. Aquarians are happy to offend someone who isn’t fully on board with the future, because what’s an uncomfortable moment in the face of evolving our species, right? The water bearers are provocative geniuses who just want to make everything better — society, art, government, technology, culture, all of it. But their humanitarianism isn’t as pure as it seems. The origin story of Aquarian culture is that they are weird, and weirdos tend to, at some point, feel alienated by others. That’s how they know they’re weirdos. Rather than retreat or conform, their mission is to make space in the world for other weirdos like them. While that’s a noble and healthy response to rejection, they often don’t see the egotism hidden at the center, nor do they develop the empathy to actually accept others who are weird to them. This can lead them to embrace obtuse, harmful, or even oppressive ideas in the name of progress. They will often care about abstract ideals over real, living individuals because the silent star of their worldview is always them.
Pisces: Telling the spiritual truth and not the actual truth
Facts don’t tell you how to feel, and the Piscean medium is emotion. Pisces have all the visionary qualities of a Virgo or an Aquarius, but applied to the realm of dreams and intuition. They absorb more vibes than you realized you could give off. They can trace the butterfly effect of a friend asking you, “What even is your career?” to your sidewalk outburst after someone knocked you with their backpack. They get it. And that’s why they can’t always be trusted to accurately recount the facts of the case. For a Pisces, you’re a pleb if you care about the literal who-what-where more than the emotional truth of an encounter. It’s stories, not fact patterns that matter. But the presumption there, of course, is that they are the master narrators, and no one can be trusted to be the sole arbiter of meaning, at least not for anyone else. When it comes to the accounting for the currency of facts, their ledgers read more like diaries than blockchain.
Illustration by Allison Filice.