What Astrology Can Teach Us about Self-Acceptance
Written by: the Editors of goop
Published on: March 7, 2019
Updated on: March 7, 2019
Reviewed by: Jennifer Freed, PhD
Illustration courtesy of Yasmin Imamur
It’s a testament to the power of astrology that even the biggest cynics probably know their sign. But it’s not until you go a little deeper into the stars and their power that things really start to get interesting. We are much more than our sign (in astrological parlance, that’s known as our sun sign). In fact, says psychological astrologer Jennifer Freed, we all have the traits—behaviors, feelings, thoughts—of all the signs of the zodiac in our birth charts. Which ones we act on is dynamic and always changing.
As a psychotherapist, Freed uses relational astrology to unlock how we interact with one another and the world around us. Ultimately, this can also show us how we can navigate ups and downs. It’s a hard line of reasoning to argue with: If you know your place in the cosmos, day-to-day life feels more understandable, more manageable. According to Freed, enlightenment begins by recognizing all of our personality traits (the good and the bad), and then taking a sober, potentially difficult inventory of which ones serve us and which ones are working against us. But as difficult or painful as it is, on the other side of that self-reflection, says Freed, is true self-acceptance and belonging.
When we talk about self-acceptance, we are usually talking about making peace with our flaws. Through the twelve signs of the zodiac—which are part of everyone’s astrological birth chart—we realize that self-acceptance is embracing both the light and shadow aspects of those twelve signs within us and without. We realize that owning all the aspects of the divine self is actually the most empowering route to acceptance and true integration.
When we believe we are the sole possessors of our flaws or gifts, we create isolation and separation. When we comprehend that we all contain universal strengths and weaknesses and that none of these qualities are meant to vex us or elevate us above others, we can make true peace with our ever-changing selves.
It is essential that we understand that a whole universe of behaviors, feelings, and thoughts exists as potential within us and that we are constantly tasked with choosing which ones we will act upon. All of us will disappoint ourselves and others at times. Every one of us will slip from our own standards of excellence.
“If we can acknowledge our character traits as visitors with equal amounts of curiosity and graciousness, they will serve our growth.”
This is not to say we should surrender to being less excellent than we know we can be. Besides knowing that perfection is an impossibility and practicing mercy and forgiveness for our missteps, self-acceptance also means an ongoing practice of rigorous self-inventory. It means cultivating the tenacity to make your pain count in terms of self-correction and resilience. Self-acceptance also involves a conscious practice of having empathy for others in their missteps.
At the same time, our most extraordinary aspects are not fixed, either. When we are soaring and at our best, we are there only temporarily—clinging to those states actually diminishes them.
Our flaws and our gifts will always present themselves as parts of a grand cycle. We host them as temporary guests and should not depend on them to stay or expect them to permanently define us. If we can acknowledge our character traits as visitors with equal amounts of curiosity and graciousness, they will serve our growth.
Self-acceptance, beyond ego identification, is an ongoing practice of rigorous inventory and accountability, mercy and forgiveness for missteps, humility in our moments of exaltation, and the tenacity to make the pain count in terms of behavior correction, resiliency, and empathy for others.
“Unattended and unloved parts of ourselves act out until they get the healing and nurturing attention they require.”
When we fail to reach our own expectations, no matter how frequently, it gives us instant access to compassion for others who suffer, and it gives us a new horizon to reach for.
The fastest way up from our lows is to love ourselves and honestly attend to those hurting parts that created the temporary downfall. Unattended and unloved parts of ourselves act out until they get the healing and nurturing attention they require. Inflated, grandiose parts will attempt to hijack our attention until they, too, are met with a steady container of loving attention that confers “just-enoughness” to our ordinary being.
We build our self-esteem by keeping our word to ourselves and others. Self-acceptance comes from the slow and steady realization that we are lovable and complete in every moment, regardless of our ego’s desire to be fixed on success at all times.
The Highs and Lows of the Astrological Signs
Below are the twelve astrological signs that are in each of our psyches and birth charts—including aspects that are more primitive and potentially harmful and others that are more adaptive and evolving and potentially uplifting and helpful. If we are in the mind-set of self-acceptance, we can recognize that we contain all of these behaviors, feelings, and thoughts.
Are you willing to embrace your totality and then choose—as best you can—for the highest side of these, for the greatest good?
For now, mark each phrase you identify with and circle each phrase you aspire to. Know that every one of us contains the sum of all parts within and you’ll gain a roaring head start to true self-acceptance.
Behavior: Bold or brash.
Feelings: Confident or enraged.
Thoughts: I matter, or I’m all that matters.
Aries energy is at its best when you use the fiery authority of the ram to work on behalf of those who need support and compassion. The martial strength of this sign can be used for noble feats of courage. Self-assuredness can inspire confidence in others.
Behavior: Steady or stubborn.
Feelings: Contented or stuck.
Thoughts: I conserve wisely, or I need more, more, more.
To realize the potential of Taurus the bull, you need to take greediness by the horns and focus more on the sensual and conserving parts of this sign. Accentuate the steady generosity, reliability, and loyalty.
Behavior: Versatile or scattered.
Feelings: Curious or distracted.
Thoughts: I learn and share my knowledge, or I can’t concentrate and follow through.
Gemini can be fulfilling when you use your higher-mindedness to connect others to noble ideals. Learn to share your words like gems and bring the shine to every conversation.
Behavior: Comforting or clinging.
Feelings: Nurturing or needy.
Thought: I nurture others, or my needs for reassurance are endless.
Cancer welcomes the best of nurturing and tenderness when yoked to a mature attitude of interdependence. Softly emphasize everyone standing on their own two feet and carrying their own perfect weight.
Behavior: Creative or narcissistic.
Feelings: Loving or selfish.
Thoughts: I create, or I can’t get enough attention.
Leo bursts through with sunlight and shines the brightness on what’s lovable in everyone and everything. Aim to be the one who opens the door for the wonder and play in every heart.
Behavior: Serving or judging.
Feelings: Humble or critical.
Thoughts: I serve the highest good, or I pick apart myself and others.
Virgo elevates service to a high art when accompanied with impeccable self-care and the full embrace of imperfections as signals for more compassion.
Behavior: Balanced or indecisive.
Feelings: Harmonious or ambivalent.
Thoughts: I balance and harmonize, or I can’t decide anything.
The beauty of Libra is exalted when balance is prioritized over superficial image. A true center anchored in self-respect is an inspiring aesthetic.
Behavior: Transformative or destructive.
Feelings: Passionate or vengeful.
Thoughts: I hold a deep authentic healing space for others, or I can’t stop my negative destructive thoughts.
Scorpio exudes real power when transformation lowers defenses and sheds authentic light on emotional transparency and vulnerability. Intensity can be used as a laser of empowerment.
Behavior: Meaningful or decadent.
Feelings: Free or grandiose.
Thoughts: I believe in the best for everyone, or I am going from one hedonistic pursuit to another.
The arrows of Sagittarius fly highest when truth is released to undo falseness and meaning is made from acquired and substantial wisdom. Seeking knowledge becomes a quest to provide freedom for all.
Behavior: Accomplishing or comparing.
Feelings: Satisfied or inadequate.
Thoughts: I accomplish great deeds on behalf of others, or I can’t stop comparing myself to others.
Capricorn’s ambition is best used for the stewardship of resources and the right distribution of necessities for the masses. Climbing to the top of divine compassion is the noble goal.
Behavior: Visionary or aloof.
Feelings: Open or cold-hearted.
Thoughts: I love humanity and seek a better world, or I can’t stop trying to be weird and different.
The visionary Aquarius functions most effectively when wedded to the deep concern for each individual’s well-being. Friendliness is close to godliness for the water-bearer.
Behavior: Idealistic or lost.
Feelings: Compassion or hurt.
Thoughts: I am one with everything and bring out the light in others, or I am lost in self-pity and victim-thinking.
Merciful Pisces is the most altruistic with an unwavering positive view of humanity. Go like a beautiful fish into the ocean of collective beneficence and allow your sensitivity to be your radar for great vibrations.
Jennifer Freed, PhD, MFT, is a psychological astrologer, psychotherapist, and author who has been teaching and consulting for over thirty years. Her forthcoming book, Use Your Planets Wisely: A Relational Approach to Personal and Collective Happiness, offers readers a radical approach to individual and collective awakening. Freed is the executive director of AHA!, a nonprofit organization that transforms schools and communities with robust and evidence-based methods of social and emotional development. And she teaches free courses on spiritual growth; follow her on Instagram @drjenniferfreed or email her at [email protected].