Article by:
Angel Martinez

Until recently, I had this intense, seemingly irreversible hatred for astrology.

As a kid, I was an avid collector of magazines of the Total Girl and Tiger Beat variety. Month after month, I couldn’t help but notice that the horoscopes towards the end seemed like unnecessary filler whose columns should have been repurposed to provide more celebrity gossip or sound advice on navigating grade school life. I scoffed at its hubris: as if I was ever going to make a pass at my crush or incorporate more green into my wardrobe because some fortune teller thought so. One day, I decided to look through the issues I had amassed over the years, open them up to the horoscopes section, and place them side by side. True enough, the messages for each sign were simply reworded or paraphrased each month, which proved it was nothing but a waste of space.

Thankfully, the legitimacy of tabloid astrology has been debunked. Experts claimed that their predictions only catered to our sun signs, which barely scratch the surface of our personhood and thus provide nothing more than entertainment value. Apparently, the real sauce lies within an individual’s natal chart, which contains the placement of all planets and constellations at the exact time of one’s birth—and by extension, the specific set of traits and characteristics they were born with. Based on this, their logic goes, people can easily glimpse into their future, or at the very least, learn how to make sense of the present. Seven-year-old Angel would be dismayed to find out that I had called my mom from school to ask for a copy of my birth certificate and verify if I was compatible with my Gemini crush. (Spoiler: I wasn’t.)

Needless to say, astrology has somewhat transformed into a school of thought that has spearheaded the so-called spiritual shift of both millennials and Gen Z. In 2018, 29% of adults living in the United States believed that astrology was a science to which they personally subscribed. And with the pandemic sparking an unprecedented interest in self-actualization and development, psychic services like the prediction-generating iPhone apps Co-Star and The Pattern are now valued at around $2.2 billion.

Younger generations connect to their zodiac signs because it prescribes them the individual wisdom not usually present in organized religion. The coping mechanism makes sense: it can be much more comforting to think that there is an intricate, profound reason behind why we are the way we are. Recent findings show that we particularly enjoy unraveling previously unknown information about ourselves and leveraging them to create a future of our own choosing, as opposed to blindly following institutions that are commonly associated with intolerance and abuse. (Their words, not mine. I’m Catholic.) 

Unfortunately, overly identifying with the stereotypes that are embedded in one’s zodiac sign can come with a price. It’s not unusual for people to use astrology as a scapegoat—a reality that does no good for each party involved. According to the Psychodynamic Functions Theory, we are predisposed to believe in paranormal or supernatural forces when confronted with uncontrollable and unfamiliar situations. So it’s no wonder looking to the stars lands us into self-affirming patterns.

“A lot of the times I get like this, I joke around that I’m just being a Cancer and laugh it off, when there might be a bigger reason behind my behavior.”

Ashley*, a 20-year-old student, experienced this as she navigated her first ever relationship. Her walking red flag of a boyfriend courted her for two years—a tremendous feat for high schoolers back in the day—only to flake out on her during dates, entertain other girls behind her back, and refuse to take responsibility for his choices. Yet, she refused to let him go because they were “celestially compatible,” as a Leo and Libra couple. “Honestly, my friends thought I was joking at first,” she told me. “ I found myself making the same excuse over and over again, even [though] anyone could see I had been suffering.” Truth is, the only reason why she held onto such juvenile reasoning was because he was her first boyfriend, and like most instances of young love, she believed they were going to last forever.

Similarly, using astrology as a crutch keeps us from confronting the harsh reality and adjusting our behavior in uncomfortable ways. Kore, a 17-year-old student, noted that she often feels abnormally sad, something that runs in the family. “A lot of the times I get like this, I joke around that I’m just being a Cancer and laugh it off, [even though] there might be a bigger reason behind my behavior.” Similarly, 42-year-old fellow Cancer and technical trainer Nick blames his social anxiety on his sign, saying that “telling people it’s my [astrological] need to be a caretaker instead of saying that I’m irrationally scared of saying something stupid helps me.”

"It’s no wonder looking to the stars lands us into self-affirming patterns."

This approach paints mental conditions as an inextricable part of who we are, rather than an issue that can be addressed over time. But getting rid of this tendency requires actively changing our self-perception by either seeking help from those around us, or simply acknowledging that something needs to be fixed. Why this could be a terrifying concept for some is a very layered issue that will take time to unpack. But while their feelings are valid, using astrology to repeatedly justify these beliefs allows people to translate them into inappropriate or unwise behavior. 

And when these harmful behaviors convert into deeds with real consequences, we find it far easier to forgive ourselves knowing that it was the “planets” that controlled our actions, or that the universe premeditated these supposedly self-inflicted inconveniences. Holding ourselves accountable and finding out what must be done to amend our wrongdoings is hard work—even more so as it unravels how hurt we actually are and how flawed we can truly be. Think of it this way: would a manipulative soft boy rather blame his infidelity on his Scorpio venus, or on his fear of abandonment brought by childhood trauma?

"This approach paints mental conditions as an inextricable part of who we are, rather than an issue that can be addressed over time."

While useful in some circumstances, astrology was never meant to be a hard and fast guide to living life. The only ones who think this way are those who’ve fallen victim to online oversimplification. Practitioner and intuitive reader Watson puts it best, saying: “[Astrology] signals that a certain energy is upon us[...] thus there are things that are likely to happen. From there, we decide whether we want to build our day around that or ignore it completely.” No matter how accurate our forecasts for the day seem, nestled in our notification bars, they are not prophecies but predictions—and the thing with predictions is that they’re a hit or miss.

This doesn’t have to be a source of disappointment or dismay—isn’t it far better, after all, to break free from astrological stereotypes and labels? To identify as nothing but completely, utterly us? To stop reading too much into predictions, and instead use the power we possess to ensure they will or won’t come true? The rather daunting but mostly beautiful thing about being human is that we were created with a capacity for exponential growth. We have the ability to develop new attitudes and adopt entire belief systems in the spirit of reinvention. Wouldn’t it be a waste of potential if we believed we were predestined to a certain fate, when we hold multitudes greater than the stars themselves?