The Ascendent, eg. the sign on the first house of the natal chart, has been called “the mask you wear”. This is not really true. This first house is the individual’s instinctive reaction to the world around her.
For example, a Libra Ascendant would quite naturally respond to other people with a curiosity about them, and a desire to develop a co-equal relationship with them. Libra is the scales. A Libra ascendent instinctively balances 10 pound of the other person with 10 pounds of herself. This is her natural reaction to the world outside of her.
But taken in the context of lived life, in the unfoldment of an individual in society, one’s instinctual reactions to the world are very often suppressed, distorted, made to be wrong in some way.
If that individual with a Libra ascendant is taught consciously or unconsciously that the world is a dangerous place, she might suppress that natural urge to develop relationships with other people.
Through insecurity, a step is introduced between action and instinctual reaction. The question “What mask shall I wear?” comes onto the picture.
A very likely result, since signs operate in polarity, is that the individual’s presentation might start looking more like the opposite sign, which here is Aries. She might try to project a mask of fiery “toughness”.
This can correlate with awkwardness.
The same goes for other signs on the Ascendent. A Leo Ascendent who is shamed for his presence might project a mask of Aquarian detachment.
These would be non-ideal expressions of the Ascendent.
The Ascendent is strongest when it is steadily reactive, mature, not efforted — just is. The Ascendent is a 2-way street. The outside world comes in, and the individual’s being — the rest of the entire chart — is expressed outward into the world through here. When the Ascendent is strong, these processes happen in a clean, efficient and honest manner. Less karma ( eg. subtle karmas of untruth and illusion) is created, and there is more possibility for evolution and growth.