Where You Ought to Be


“Oh you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.

There’s nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can’t see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.”

I made this lovely little gem over the weekend, modified slightly from the pattern CRAFTYisCOOL so kindly provided on their blog. And as I was putting the finishing touches on it, it got me thinking two things:

First, that I need to carve a Harry Potter pumpkin to wear it, and definitely crochet my puppy a Hufflepuff scarf so we can match on Halloween.

But secondly, and arguably more importantly (though I do need to get on that scarf), it made me think about labels. You see, I really don’t like labels. I don’t like the Stupid-s and Liar-s and Bully-s. But, and maybe even more so, I also don’t like the Smarty-s and Winner-s and most of all the Perfect-s.

Labels reduce us, box us in, and define us. If you label someone a liar, for example, you remove their option of being something else, or of you seeing them become something else. Maybe they think, “She already thinks I’m a liar, what’s the point in trying to tell the truth? Or in convincing her I’m telling the truth?”

Of course. Negative labels hurt. We called it “name calling” where I used to work, and it wasn’t allowed in the classroom or on the playground. But what’s wrong with Smarty? Winner? Perfect? Those are all nice things to say about someone, aren’t they? What’s wrong with them is that they put the value of the person in the attribute. Do something “stupid”? You’re now worth less in the eyes of everyone who thought you were smart, and most importantly, in your own eyes. Lose a game? You’re no longer a winner. The people who thought you were cool because you were a winner must no longer think you’re cool. How can you face them at school tomorrow?

And perfect. Don’t get me started on how perfect ruined my life. I spent so long trying to be the perfect daughter, perfect student, perfect wife, perfect employee. Perfect people have it all together, all figured out, nothing gets to them, they can solve every problem. And every time I fell short of perfect (which was, you know, every. time.), a piece of me broke. I felt I had let someone down, hadn’t tried hard enough, was a disappointment, was unlovable.

So, how  can I hate labels so much, but still be like LOOK AT THIS CUTE LITTLE SORTING HAT I MADE! EEEE! SO CUTE!?

Because the Sorting Hat reminds us that, while there is power in labels, there’s more power in choices:

Harry: Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin.

Sorting Hat: Not Slytherin, eh? Are you sure? You could be great, you know. It’s all here in your head. And Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, there’s no doubt about that. No?

Harry: Please, please. Anything but Slytherin, anything but Slytherin.

Sorting Hat: Well if you’re sure, better be… GRYFFINDOR!

How to Be Awesome Tip #5: Define your own labels – don’t let them define you.


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