The criticism about the four houses is that they have very broad categorical labels, and as such, as it goes with pretty much every label ever, is frequently boiled down to rudimentary (rude) stereotypes. Slytherins must be evil, Ravenclaws nerds, and Hufflepuffs are where those who aren't anything cool go. Harry Potter is Gryffindor, and therefore everyone wants to be Gryffindor.
But that isn't true is it? In fact, these stereotypes seem to exist strongest among those who have only had a peripheral exposure to Harry Potter culture. Those who have weighed the virtues of each house, have felt solidarity with at least one of them. Yes, "at least one," because humans are not always so easily fitted into labels. Most people I talk to who have claimed a Hogwarts house, have done do with great scrutiny, but also with great anxiety. Yes, there are those who know 100% where their values, virtues, and life paths fit - but others of us are torn between our capabilities and our goals. Or, in other words, between who we are and who we are striving to be.
I take myself for example. In any well-thought out sorting quiz (as oppose to the ones that simply ask you your favourite animal and colour so that you are practically hand-picking your house anyways), I have always been tied, not a dead tie, but with a one point difference between two houses that flip back and forth depending on the day or questions asked. Those two houses? Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. And given what these two houses represent, I really can't argue. I can see almost all moments of my life as being characteristically driven by each of these two houses. I have a certain stubborn perfectionism, education had been my leading value for most of my life*(which gets more complicated if you dig down deep enough), and, yes, for my upper years I was that student who cried at the horrific failure of a "B". But I haven't always been like this. I began Hufflepuff. I struggled with school life, home life, and if you've been following along with anything I've ever said/posted about myself, you'll know that I'm more likely to hold back than to step forward. Even in my most confident years, leading with confidence outwardly has been a learned skill. But what hasn't changed has been my relentless need to protect people, to please people - or at least to not disappoint them. And as I've been feeling more secure in my adult body, I'm realizing that all of those "Ravenclaw" attributes do come down to what I value most.
Any ambition I have or have had has not always been 100% for myself. There has been someone to please, maybe even someone to prove wrong, someone to impress, someone to set a good example for. And here I am now, hours away from my birthday, looking back at a year that I can honestly say that I have worked my life putting together. My dedication to my future, though perhaps a Slytherin quality (which wouldn't be unusual since it's my 3rd highest trait, and the fact that both my parents are 100% Slytherin tell me that it isn't surprising that some of it should rub off on me), has always been about this - family. To somehow make right the instability of my childhood by creating a better one moving forward.
My son will be a year old in one month and one week. He was planned. He was wanted. And it has all come down to him, to making things right for him that couldn't be made right for me.
And so, imagining myself sitting beneath the sorting hat, knowing that even Pottermore thinks that I belong in Ravenclaw house, I know what my heart says. And while I'm studious, and enjoy my studies, and would probably thrive with mentors who could lead me to discoveries and successes that I cannot fathom, I know that I would cave with that kind of pressure. I enjoy a little competition, yes, but I'm not one who needs to be the best. I'm not one who could put everything else on hold to follow a big dream. I am a Hufflepuff. I will always assume that others are more knowledgeable, more talented, and more destined for greatness than I am. And thus I don't think that I would achieve much in Ravenclaw house, always being self-conscious that others are cleverer than me, probably finding a secondary place to sleep because unless I was 100% sure that I knew the password riddle, I probably wouldn't even try for fear of disappointing those around me.
But as a Hufflepuff --
As a Hufflepuff I could rule the friggin' world!
As a Hufflepuff all of that timidness, that insecurity that holds me back would seem so small. Because in Hufflepuff house, people don't compare you to the biggest and best, they encourage you to do you, to do your biggest and best, to do what you need to to feel valued, because only when we have faith in ourselves, can we really move mountains. Rather than be crippled by my own self-doubt, I could move with confidence, and then in turn, feel confident in helping others find their confidence too. This is the life I led in England, and if you've read anything about my life in the castle, you know how much that time meant to me. But it wasn't just because of what I got to do, or see, or study. It was because for the first time in real life, I felt that I was the best version of me. I made friends with 1st years who were nervous about university life, I brought forward ideas to help shape our year at school, I volunteered in the village, and I turned in the best darn essays! What made this year so different? Because I went into it without any pressure. I had already graduated with my Undergrad degree. I wasn't the oldest student, but I was the only one beyond a 3rd year standing. The courses I took didn't matter, the grades didn't matter, I didn't need pre-req's, I had nothing I needed to fulfill. So I took what I liked, and loved it. I did my assignments with passion and not just to complete them.
This is my element, this is where I thrive, and this is where I am the best person to those around me.
In the film The Bucket List, they say that there are only two questions that you are asked at heaven's gate, one is "Did you have joy in your life?" The second is, "Did your life bring joy to others?" Well, as a Hufflepuff, my answer is yes.
I am proud of being a Hufflepuff. I feel powerful as a Hufflepuff - not "better" than anyone, just my best self.
I feel such confidence in who I am as a Hufflepuff, I feel solidairty in it. So much so that I have even added a number of yellow garments to my wardrobe, which for someone with the complexion I do (thank you Scottish forefathers!) is a very bold move.
I can laugh at this, and feel not one ounce of shame or self-consciousness. In fact, it's one of my favourites!
And I think that's a Hufflepuff trait. We don't mind a little self-humiliation (controlled by ourselves, of course) if it helps to ease tension or break the ice. I've been a bit silly as a way of winning friends, because my only other option in my programming is to hide in a corner and hope that no one wants to start a conversation, because then the pressure is on for me to have an equal handle on where that conversation will lead.
I only wish that announcing your Hogwarts house was a fully socially acceptable way to engage in conversation. "Hi, I'm a Hufflepuff!" "Cool, I'm a Gryffindor!" "Yay friends!"
To get back to that idea of rivalries among houses, a little competition is healthy, working as a team, setting individual goals, are all important. But being in any house does not eliminate relationships with other houses, because, at the end of the day, we share the bond of Hogwarts, and that's a freaking strong bond! One that I hope continues on for generations to come.
At least it's one that I will try to share with my son, who I hope will feel confident in leading his life in whatever form that may take. At the moment, my money is on Slytherin. Some wonderful, loving people are from Slytherin house, and as Harry said to Albus Severus Potter, "then Slytherin house will have gained an excellent student." He does still have 10 years to change his mind, and whatever he chooses will be fine too. After all, I was supposed to be in Ravenclaw... sometimes you just know what's right.