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Everything You Need to Know About the Cancer Personality

Going through a breakup? Stressed at work? Killed your calathea plant? Call a Cancer (chances are she’ll sense you’re upset before the phone rings). Or better yet, take shelter in the water sign’s warm embrace. The mothers of the zodiac will make you feel right at home with their nurturing presence (and the best chili you’ve ever had). Want to learn more about the Cancer personality? Curl up, you’re safe here.

Your sun sign: Cancer

Your element: Water. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are the masters of intuition. Water signs experience the world through their vast sea of emotions and can sense the slightest waves in those around them. Guided by their gut instincts, these three might leave a job because it doesn’t “feel right” or they’ll be the first to tell you they “have a good feeling” about your new boyfriend.

Your mode: Cardinal. Meet the self-starters of the zodiac. Marked by the dawn of each season, those born under the cardinal modality (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) are driven to take action and get to work. While perpetually daydreaming mutable signs may have 40 start-up ideas scrawled in their notebooks, count on cardinal signs to bring one to fruition.

Your ruling planet: The moon. While the sun radiates our outward ego and personality, the moon reflects our deepest inner emotions. The luminary gives us insight into our intuition, memories and reactions. The moon’s influence over the sea mirrors the ever-changing moods of Cancer: Her emotional tides flow in and out with each passing hour. Look to the moon’s placement on your chart to uncover how you process emotions and what makes you feel safe.

Your symbol: The crab. Protected by a tough outer shell, the crustacean guards its vulnerability from the harsh outside world. Just as the crab sidesteps and sinks into the sand, Cancer is quick to retreat from real or imagined threats. Even watching 30 seconds of the news is enough to send the risk-averse sign scuttling. Highly sensitive crabs crave security for themselves and for those they care about (so you’re lucky Cancer lets you into her shell).

Your one-word mantra: “Open.” Cancer avoids risk at all costs, but she’ll never experience the joys of life from inside a hermit’s shell. (See every sign’s one-word mantra.)

Best traits: Cancer’s energy wraps us in a warm fleece blanket and hands us a cup of herbal tea. She employs her deep well of empathy to relate to the people (and animals and plants) around her. While other signs may breeze past an unusually quiet coworker, the crab digs deeper: “I know something’s wrong and I’m here to help.” Cancer opens our emotional floodgates, receiving our feelings with an open heart and honest guidance. The highly attuned sign goes out of her way to make those in their circle feel deeply understood.

Worst traits: Cancer pours so much of herself into the well-being of others that she is often left with an empty cup. The care and attention Cancer gives is what she so desperately needs in return. (Psst: Ask her how she’s feeling for once, dammit.) The sign is quick to suppress her own desires for the sake of others, which can show up as passive aggression and resentment over time. Cancer can bury her anger for months before raising her claws. So rather than candidly asking you to put your socks in the hamper, Cancer may erupt into a tear-filled tirade about how your messiness shows you’ve never really loved her. Communication is key, dear crabs.

Best careers: Don’t let Cancer’s gentle nature fool you: The cardinal signs are tenacious in the workplace. Cancer’s altruism manifests in either her field of work (think social work, teaching, hospitality) or her motivation for working (to gain financial security for the people she loves). Careers in health care, midwifery, or child or elder care are a natural fit for kindhearted Cancer. Her independence might also draw her to freelance gigs, especially creative writing projects that allow her imagination to flow. No matter the field, Cancer’s strong work ethic and empathic gifts make her a highly effective leader. She’ll sing the praises of her coworkers and create an office that feels like home.

As a friend: Our Cancer friends are extremely selective with their crew. Call her perceptive or downright psychic, but Cancer knows within seconds if someone is authentic and worth befriending. She prefers to have a few lifelong friends rather than a crowd of acquaintances. Arguably the best listeners in the zodiac, loyal Cancers are a lockbox of your deepest secrets. She’ll support you through a breakup, help you delete your ex’s number and leap to your defense if anyone has a problem with it. Expect lots of venting sessions, cozy nights at book club and Lana Del Ray concerts with your Cancer pal.

As a parent: You have a home; the Cancer parent has a nest. Her greatest concern is the protection of her clan (so be nice to her kids if you value your life). Cancer’s little ones will thrive in her homespun fortress of love, comfort and from-scratch cookies. Movie nights, family hikes and long discussions at the dinner table (read: therapy sessions) are a Cancer parent’s dream. Above all, Cancer needs to be needed—to make banana pancakes, to tend to fevers, to drive to tennis practice—so she’ll derive great purpose from being a parent. As her kids grow up, though, she’ll have a hard time accepting their independence. The crab might come across as controlling to teens, but she just wants what’s best for them.

As a partner: After the drawbridges around her heart are lowered, a relationship with Cancer is an intimate sanctuary. Your joys and sorrows will become Cancer’s; she’ll be right beside you celebrating your highs and digging you out from your lows. Want to support your Cancer S.O. in return? Honesty and reassurance are key—so pour your heart out to Cancer every so often (or risk experiencing the crab’s jealous streak). When conflicts arise, count on loyal Cancer to work through problems until they’re resolved. She’ll want to explore your relationship with your toxic father and how he’s subconsciously making you a bad texter, so get ready to talk it out.

Secret traits no one realizes: We know, we know: Cancer feels everything, but you’d be wrong to mistake her sensitivity for weakness. Instead, the crab is incredibly persistent. She won’t stop fundraising until meeting (and exceeding) her donation goal to the animal sanctuary. She’ll show up at a friend’s door to make amends after a squabble. Resilient Cancer will never give up on who and what she loves.

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