Essays

Prescription Identity

By: Gavin Quinn

Illustration by: Brittany Fucik

Zodiac Image

       When making a list of controversial and sensitive topics that are prevalent today, I wouldn’t expect zodiac signs to be anywhere near the top of that list; four-fifths of the way down, maybe, but definitely not a hot and trending topic. To my surprise, when I pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the changing astrological signs, the room dissembled into chaos. This was some serious Lord of the Flies type regression, all over what a little ideogram meant to everybody present.

       Debating whether or not the signs changed isn’t anywhere near as interesting as the conversation sparked at the prospect of alteration. Why does this matter so much to so many people? The concept of your personality being tied to the constellation you were born under seems inherently ridiculous, yet thousands of people ascribe their identities to these star signs.

       Part of the reason zodiac horoscopes seem to just get us is the generality with which they speak. Looking over my description for a Libra, I’m supposed to be cooperative and social, with a passion for harmony and a vengeance for violence. That sounds great on the surface, and tempting as it may be to agree with it and move on, consider how many other people embody those traits without being born between September and October. When making bold generalizations about millions of people, it’s easy to hit the mark some of the time.

       Even when a horoscope’s description of you doesn’t feel in line with your personality, it’s still easy to fall into the mentality that your horoscope makes up a piece of who you are. Part of this is due to the style of writing most zodiac descriptions employ: “As a Virgo, you can be stubborn at times but are also extremely loyal and kind.” After learning that you’re a Virgo, it’s remarkably easy to read that sentence and take it as a prescription to your identity. Maybe you have a casual interest in reading books, but after learning a Virgo’s favorite activity is reading you have a faux-realization that reading is actually your favorite pastime as well.

       That’s also not to say that zodiacs are the sole source of identity afflictions people may encounter. Popular personality tests such as the Meyers-Briggs and Enneagram quizzes base their entire conceit around developing a personality for someone’s perception of self in one moment of time. For example, I’m currently an ENFJ and Type Two Helper, but both of these have changed more times than my major. Right before sitting down to write this, I decided to take the enneagram quiz again, only to find that my personality was now split between types two, five, and seven.  

       Self-identity is such a fickle thing, and finding a reaffirming source like a star sign or personality test makes it so simple to hold on to that one result and cradle it as your end-all answer for selfhood. The great news is that people’s personalities are meant to be dynamic! It’s okay for your shifting worldviews to be reflected in the way you act, it’s part of growth and aspiring to become a better you. Maybe you identify with being an Aries and INTP one year, but it’s more than understandable for you to be something else two years from then. We all have aspects of every star sign in us; it’s these changes we go through that end up composing the beautiful, dynamic self-determination that is identity.

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