A horoscope can be a useful thing. It is an astrologer’s interpretation of various cosmic signs, including the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars in relation to the date of a person’s birth, in order to gain insight into a person’s personality or situation. If you believe in astrology, you believe that the positions of the cosmos have an influence on your life.

Although no scientific studies have proved the efficacy of astrology, the personal experiences of many people say otherwise. In fact, one-in-four Americans believe in the power of astrology. For reference, that’s around 80 million people looking to the stars for advice on things like love, daily routines, their choice of profession, and more.

But with so many seeking their fate from the predictions of astrological charts and zodiac signs, we must ask an important question: can our horoscopes hurt us?

The truth is that, like anything, the art of astrology is subject to human frailties and failings, and the information we find in our horoscopes can help or hurt us, depending on how we choose to act on that information. And if we want to live satisfactory lives, we need to be aware of the pitfalls of divination.

Let’s look at a few things to keep in mind the next time you’re reading through your horoscope.

Your Horoscope Can Lead to Unrealistic Expectations

Human beings are creatures of hope. We want the best for our lives, and for those we love. But sometimes, hope can turn to wishful thinking, and when we don’t encounter the positive outcomes we blindly expect will happen, we’re met with deep disappointment and bewilderment.

Your horoscope can reinforce this harmful habit by giving you unrealistic expectations.

Imagine this. You read your horoscope for the day, and it tells you that your career is likely to really take off in the next months. You grow excited, and begin to eagerly await your glorious climb up the corporate ladder.

Except, a week later, you miss a rung and fall into the abyss of unemployment: you’re fired.

If you had been operating under the assumption that your professional life could only get better, you probably weren’t well-prepared for this shocker, emotionally or financially. In your excitement, you may have even overlooked some of the obvious signs of your impending doom.

Most of all, instead of seeing this event as an opportunity to find a new career, you may simply see it as the end. Your wishful thought, spurred on by your horoscope, didn’t come to pass, and now all seems lost. Doing this over and over can lead to a sorely disappointing life marked by unrealistic expectations.

Expectations are often based on assumptions, hope and guesses. Goals are based on concrete reality. Don’t let your horoscope make you live by the former, and you’ll be a much happier person.

Your Horoscope Can Take Away Your Agency

One of the top signs of emotional and mental maturity is the ability to make your own choices, thereby controlling your own life. This is achieved through thinking carefully about what you really want out of life, and by making concrete, well-considered plans to achieve your goals.

Used wrongly, your horoscope can take this ability away from you.

Reading and using a horoscope prediction takes careful thought. It’s a tool like any other—a source of information to process and use when making decisions.

But when we stop thinking and allow our horoscopes to make our choices for us, we lose our agency—our ability to make and act on our own independent choices.

It can be tempting to simply make our horoscopes happen. We read, for example, that because we were born under a certain astrological sign, we have a certain personality. We then try to live out that personality in order to be authentically “ourselves,” when in reality, we’re putting on a mask provided to us by astrology.

Remember that the only true dictator of who you are and what choices you should make comes from a single source: you. Let your horoscope inform your decisions without making them for you, and you’ll truly live a life marked by authenticity.

Your Horoscope Can Hurt Your Relationships

Horoscopes—and in particular, the zodiac signs—are deeply associated with the world of romance. We pair different signs together, marking them as inherently compatible or difficult. Often we make instant assumptions about our current, or potential, lovers based on their sign.

This can create huge problems in your relationships. When we can’t see past a romantic interest’s astrological sign, we fail to see the complex human beneath.

This means that we go into relationships with preconceived notions and assumptions which may be gravely wrong. We might pass on the love of our life because she is a Taurus rather than a Capricorn. We might go for the Capricorn, despite the fact that he’s abusive.

Or, if we’re already in a relationship, we may allow astrological predictions to dictate whether or not we stay with our partner.

It’s tempting to try and simplify the mysterious world of love by reducing it to a series of compatible and incompatible signs, but things simply don’t work that way. Bear in mind that not every person fits their astrological sign in conventional ways—get to know the person before you make assumptions about them based on the heavens, and you’ll have a much better chance at finding true love.

The Perils of an Unexamined Life

Ideally, your horoscope should make you think rather than confining you to a certain path, personality, or lifestyle. If you find yourself conformed to them rather than informed by them, or if you find yourself with increasingly unrealistic expectations, giving up your personal agency, and making rigid relationship choices, you run the risk of living what the classical Greek philosopher Socrates feared the most: an unexamined life.

This is a life controlled by things outside of yourself. This is a life that rolls on, unquestioned, and because of this, is ultimately unsatisfying.

Place yourself at the center of your universe of thought and choice, rather than allowing your horoscope to occupy this hallowed spot. Astrology is merely one among many things in orbit around you, all of which you can choose to heed or ignore as you pursue your life. Ultimately, it is up to us to grow, improve, and achieve.

Shakespeare said it best: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

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