When Near Enough is Not Good Enough

Virgo (Image from the Symbalon Deck)
Virgo (Image from the Symbalon Deck)

Virgo gets a bad rap. The perfectionist, the clean freak, the nag, the nit- picker, the martyr, the critic. With this post, however, I really was trying to avoid the clichés. Virgo deserves better than that, and my Virgo friends deserve better than that. This week, however, I have been bombarded with images of the shadow Virgo. My Grandmother (not the 91 year old dancing in stilettos one) once said to me “Jo, you have no idea how hard it is to be a Virgo.” Its true, I don’t.  The ultimate cliché is that it has taken me a few days of re-write to complete this post… and I still don’t believe I have done justice to Virgo.

As with all signs, there are contradictions within Virgo. Just as everyone can hold up a non-competitive Aries Sun as proof that astrology doesn’t work, we all know a Virgo living in, shall we say, less than perfect hygienic conditions. If we looked closely at that Aries, we would find an area of life in which that person is a veritable warrior. Likewise, if we examine the Virgo in question, there will be some part of their existence which is controlled and organised. Further, we all have an area of life controlled by Virgo. It will be that part of us which most desires perfection. I am getting ahead of myself.

In describing the true purpose and motivation of Sun sign, I often find it useful to look at the part of the body ruled by the sign. With Virgo, it is digestion and assimilation. This function looks critically at the fuel which has been ingested, analyses its value and sends it to where it needs to go. Sound familiar? Critical analysis of the information received. Attention to detail is an absolute requirement to achieve the desired result. So it is in life. Virgo, operating at its highest has the ability to absorb information, break it down into more manageable pieces, classify it, organise it and get it to where it needs to go.  Virgo is the ultimate Project Manager in this regard. Pretty essential stuff, but often over-looked and taken for granted.

Whilst the reward can be completed tasks with all boxes ticked, the downside can be an over attention to detail on occasions where that the big picture does not require it. Virgo is prone to mental exhaustion due to her propensity to stress over little things- to make mountains out of a mole-hill, as my mother would say. Again, I am ahead of myself.

Virgo is a mutable earth sign ruled by Mercury. This means Virgo has the real and honest practicality and sensuality of earth, the love of information of Mercury, and the flexibility to juggle it. But more than anything, Virgo knows that perfection can be attained, that things really can be as good as they should be. This is not the unbridled optimism of Jupiter and Sagittarius, but rather a firm conviction that if tasks and issues are broken down and organised, jobs will be completed and problems resolved and perfection realised. In balance, this potential for growth and achievement is exciting.  This is why when Virgo appears to be nagging or critical, it truly is because they think you have the potential and ability to make things better and be the best you can be. Your bum really might look fat in those jeans.

Taking this one step further, Virgo is identified with the 6th house of the birth chart. This area of life is concerned with the details of life, with service, servants and (traditionally) sickness or (in more modern times) health.   Virgo is here to serve. Virgo service is not entirely selfless, nor is it associated with the spotlight ego of Leo service. It is simply service. Service is the purpose of Virgo and Virgo becomes its’ work. This also explains why health and hygiene is often a key focus for Virgo. A Virgo friend once joked (at least I thought it was a joke) that she likes nothing better than to have her husband on a diet.

The Virgo shadow, and the grounds on which the clichés are built, comes when the drive for perfection becomes all encompassing. When the self is martyred to an impossibly exhausting and ever growing task-list. In project terms, we would call it “scope-creep”. We see it often in the workplace where Virgo does a great job, is “rewarded” with more work, which increases the pressure on detail, which creates anxiety, which may lead to mistakes, which leads to more pressure and so on.

I read a great article that could have been written for Virgo the other day in Mind Food magazine entitled The Myth of Perfection. The article talks about the use of the terms “I should”, or “I must” and warns of the dissatisfaction which can come from high expectations and unrealistic goals, and the pressure on the relationships of those who demand perfection. There can be the idea that if something can’t be done perfectly it shouldn’t be done at all- the image of the dieter who, on accepting one square of chocolate, decides that she can’t do this properly so may as well finish the block.

This is the shadow of Virgo. It is one where opportunities for growth, fun and achievement are lost or hidden under the weight of what must be done. Where the schedule must be maintained no matter what other distractions or temptations or enjoyment can be had. Where a social outing can’t be enjoyed until after the bathroom has been cleaned.   The saddest part of this scenario is the lack of compassion Virgo can show towards herself. Virgo unfairly undervalues herself and in doing so reinforces the cycle, thinking she can be better, more virtuous, and more indispensable. In doing for others, Virgo often shows little kindness towards herself.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, wherever Virgo is in your chart will be the part of life which you want to make perfect. Such idealism is wonderful, but needs to be tempered with the risk of scope creep. Personally, with Virgo on the cusp of my 7th house, the area of life I am most likely to be critical of, and least likely to be satisfied, is in relationships- including that with myself. With a Pisces Sun/ Virgo Pluto opposition, I am only just starting to realise that I am projecting my own tendencies towards perfectionism and self sacrifice into my relationships.

Polarity is an important concept in astrology, sort of like homeopathy in a way, but in this case, we can look to a little of the opposite sign to provide the medicine. In the case of a Virgo shadow, a little Piscean slacking off can be a good thing. (Just as with the Pisces shadow, a little Virgo attention to detail helps). My astro pal Neeti Ray suggested on Facebook that I “give that Virgo a wine”… not a bad idea- I was hung up on the detail.

My message to Virgo? Show yourself some compassion, you are enough now as you are… the sun is shining and the bathroom can wait… maybe even until next weekend.

The Sun moves into Virgo around 10am 23/8/09 Sydney time.


  1. Thank you for your compassion. I find Virgo a very difficult sign to live with; always have & always will. High expectation reigns in my life – all the product of me. I am my own worst enemy. But this post was very spot on. Thanks again.

  2. I finally got to read this. It’s a great read, and you’ve caught the Virgo dilemmas, virtues and the shadow so well. (My Virgo planets are applauding your post).

    And my Leo Sun (down, boy!) is ticked pink because you mentioned me! Thank you!

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