Your Rising Zodiac Sign Is How Others See You—So, Yeah, Knowing Yours Matters

Photo: Getty Images/m-gucci
I recently discovered my status as being astrology-curious, which, among other things, means for the first time in a long time, I have something in common with my mom. While recently urging her to download the Co-Star app and quizzing her on zodiac zingers, I learned she actually has a lot to teach me. Not only does she know her chart ("Virgo sun sign, with a Libra rising and Aries moon"), but she volleyed with, "What's your rising sign?" I had no idea.

What is your rising sign?

Quickly I learned that ascendant and rising signs are the same thing. "Your rising sign or ascendant is how your spirit has chosen to project you into physical reality; it's how others see you," astrologer Monte Farber tells me. Your moon sign is indicative of your inner self, and your sun sign is your essence and soul—it's probably what you look for when you check your horoscope.

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For an analogy, Farber suggests thinking of yourself as a movie projector: a bright light, a curved mirror through which to concentrate the light, and the film and its lens. Your sun sign is the light (the essence of the movie), your moon sign is the curved mirror (the inner workings that no one necessarily sees), and your rising sign is the film and lens (what the audience sees). You project your emotions (your moon) onto the world that's colored by your light (your sun and soul), but the world only sees the image on the surface of the lens (your ascendent or rising). So, even though you might be a Gemini sun sign—and have the gold-plated zodiac necklace to prove it—the world may be interacting with your Aquarius rising sign.

Why it’s helpful to understand your rising sign

Beyond just being the persona you wear around other people and how they perceive you, which is super helpful to know, understanding the meaning of your rising sign can help you understand yourself on a deeper level. “Your rising sign also shows the divine path that you are moving into in this lifetime—the lessons you are learning, and the characteristics you will begin to embody as you get older,” says Ellen Bowles, an astrologer and co-author of Astrology SOS. “Your rising sign can help you understand the different traits that you are learning to embrace within yourself.”

"Your rising sign or ascendant is how your spirit has chosen to project you into physical reality; it's how others see you." —astrologer Monte Farber

For instance, Bowles shares, fire rising signs may be tasked with learning how to take more action in life and channeling their creativity. “Earth risings may be mastering the material and external world in a grounded manner,” she says. “For air rising signs, developing their mentality and communication will be important for their success. Water risings are learning how to harness their emotional world and tap into their spiritual knowledge and intuition.”

So while your sun sign represents your essence and your soul, it is your rising sign that serves as a blueprint for your life.  "More than just appearance, your rising sign is the tool you've been given in this lifetime to achieve that sacred sun sign mission, as you navigate your life from that starting point," astrologer Maria Sofia Marmanides previously told Well+Good. "Look to that sign for key clues as to your cosmic gifts that are at your disposal, which you can draw from to achieve your goals."

So do your natal chart (you can run one for free here!), because below, the famed astrology duo of Farber and Amy Zerner, authors of Astrology for Wellness, break down together how others see you, based on your rising sign. Plus, Bowles shares the top three characteristics of each rising sign. You're going to want to take notes.

What your rising sign says about you, according to astrologers

Aries Rising

aries rising sign

Aries rising has a bold face, others perceive them as quick to charge at a person or situation. That appearance of aggression can be seriously mistranslated, so it might be good to mind your tone when you need the support.

"It's easy for others to think you're self-confident and/or arguing with them," says Farber. "If you feel weak, no-one knows. Dial it down when you want to be nice."

Top characteristics: Leadership, warrior energy, determination

Taurus Rising

taurus rising sign

A Taurus Rising has a lazy (no shade, Taurus Sun here) but glamorous facade. They appear to cultivate the finer things in life, and enjoy them in a languid, public-facing way...maybe Instagram stories filled with prosecco and self-care nights.

"You come across as slow and deliberate but dependable—desiring of life's luxuries," says Zerner. "Use your poker face when you're not sure."

Top characteristics: Sensual, grounded, material driven

Gemini Rising

gemini rising sign

Gemini as a sign is witty and extremely go-with-the-flow, they have that rare gift of malleability. Just be aware that some people take that changeable nature as flakiness.

"While you're widely regarded as smart, versatile, and changeable, those who are strongly opinionated may see you as uncertain," says Farber. "Make sure you are understood."

Top characteristics: Communication, technology, networker

Cancer Rising

cancer rising sign

A Cancer Rising will have a maternal presence, which uh, can show up differently depending on which parental tone you tend to take with your loved ones.

"Sensitive, shy, caring and s/mothering is how people may describe you, with the 's' depending on how strongly you insist that you be obeyed," says Zerner.

Top characteristics: Maternal/paternal, nurturing, domesticated


Leo Rising

leo rising sign

Leo Rising, lit by a similar fire sign energy as Aries, arrives to the party queenly, stately... and with an air of haughtiness, if you're not careful. "Since you present as a dramatic, not-shy leader driven by ego, no one feels sorry for you," says Farber. "Don't be too familiar."

Top characteristics: Creative, performer, entertainer

Virgo Rising

virgo rising sign

With a Virgo rising, you project as a helpful perfectionist who knows how to refine any project to its most impeccable version... but there can be a lot of nervous energy during the process.

"It's easy for others to see you as skilled, fidgety, and worried—no matter how you are feeling," Zerner says. "Some may see you as childlike in a good way."

Top characteristics: Organized, perfectionist, healer

Libra Rising

libra rising sign

Libra Rising appears soft and beautiful in the world because of it's Venus rulership, and that can truly be an asset. "As a refined, unflappable, and indecisive person, you can get away with being a bit nasty because others don't see it," Farber says.

Top characteristics: Romantic, beautiful, justice seeking

Scorpio Rising

scorpio rising sign

"You're seen as sexy, mysterious, powerful, and judgmental—so passionate and direct, in fact, that you're often misunderstood," Zerner says. Try to throw off that cloak once in a while, Scorpio Rising, it's okay to be vulnerable!

Top characteristics: Investigative, mysterious, intuitive

Sagittarius Rising

sagittarius rising sign

Sagittarius Rising basically shows up like Gandalf to Hobbiton. "You seem wise, honest, blunt, and likely to blurt out what should be secret," Farber says. "Always a stranger in a strange land."

Top characteristics: Explorer, adventurous, charismatic

Capricorn Rising

capricorn rising sign

For Capricorn Rising, your challenge will be about letting down your guard and sense of natural self-strictness. "It's easy for others to see you as serious, all-business, and stern when they want to have fun," Zerner says. "You get younger as you get older."

Top characteristics: CEO energy, hardworking, reserved

Aquarius Rising

aquarius rising sign

Aquarius Rising has a real genius quality that others will find fascinating, and others will find-off-putting. "Many regard you as inventive, cold, eccentric, or weird, with your mind on the future and past, not here," Farber says.

Top characteristics: Out-of-the-box thinker, independent, humanitarian

Pisces Rising

pisces rising sign

"You're often described as having a psychic voice, projecting such vibes if something's wrong. Know your intuition shows on your face."

Top characteristics: Spiritual, artistic, dreamer

How to discover your rising sign

Finding your sun sign (aka sign you use to look up your horoscope) is fairly easy since all you need is your birth date and a quick Google search. However, to find your rising sign, you’ll need to pull up your natal chart which requires your birthdate, birth location, and birth time. Sites like Cafe Astrology and Astrograph are fan favorites (and both free!).

Still, if you’re an astrology newbie, trying to interpret a natal chart can feel like you’re trying to read a different language. In which case, consider consulting an astrology app, like the aforementioned Co-Star or TimePassages (both also free!), which make it a little bit easier. Just look for “rising sign” or “ascendant sign” to find yours.

Bowles notes that you’ll need your exact birth time down to the minute to find your correct rising sign. So, if you don’t already know your birth time by heart, check your birth certificate, or give your mom a ring! No luck? No worries. Bowles says there is a rectification process that can help pinpoint your birth time. “If you know the window of what time you were born, your chart is analyzed by a professional astrologer to retrieve your exact birth,” she says.

While your rising sign—again, how others likely perceive you—may not paint the most accurate picture of who you actually are, over time, you'll be able to open up with your true moon-sign identity. Until then, being aware of how your identity presents is helpful for knowing how to cushion your actions and words. After all, first impressions can stick.

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