Happiness is Selfish

One day in Spanish class we watched a video on “Happiness,” a short film created by Steve Cutts. I’ve linked the video for reference at the end of this article. The film takes a satirical viewpoint on the concept of happiness, portraying it as something that can never truly be achieved in society. The rat, which is the main character of the film, goes through his life, following signs that direct him towards happiness. In the end, he runs to catch a bill of money, but when he finally gets his paws on it, the rat trap snaps, and he gets caught along with all the other rats.

Obviously, my first reaction when I saw the film was happiness is fake, and we are all going to get trapped in society in the end. I remember walking out of class, vividly shook. The minute I climbed the stairs to go to my seventh period class, I couldn’t hold it in. My friend was with me, and she could see I was going to break down, and she took me to the side, and I could not process what I had seen.

That day, I felt more helpless, alone, and trapped than I ever had. I didn’t talk to anybody, and I barely managed to finish my homework. I remember just staring at a white wall while sitting at a desk, not understanding what was happening or where I was. For that weekend, I hardly thought about who I was or where I was. I mindlessly did my homework, and I spoke very little to anybody. I felt more discontent than I had in a while. The following weeks, I chose to actively ignore the idea of “what is happiness.” My Spanish teacher kept having us write essays and do discussions on the idea of happiness, but I pushed those thoughts out of my head. I didn’t have time to think because of the pressure of school. Eventually though, once winter break came, I finally gave myself time to think. I knew I had to acknowledge what I had seen. It was over break that I finally came to the conclusion that happiness is selfish.

Happiness is something that is internal; it’s entirely independent, and it’s something only we can control for ourselves. During our Spanish discussion, our teacher asked us “what makes you happy?” The first three responses students in my class gave were the following: not having homework, getting good grades, and getting enough sleep. When I heard these answers, I felt like punching a wall and crying all at the same time because I was insanely frustrated with what America’s education system had done to us. The fact that nobody said “myself” made me sad.

In my opinion, happiness is not something that someone else or something else can give us. If we rely on the outside world for happiness, are we truly happy? Happiness is a feeling we should be able to give ourselves. It comes from our own actions and thoughts. Over break, I thought a lot about if I am truly happy, and I realized, I am. I love who I am, and I am proud of the person I am. Everything I do is for myself, and it makes me happy. If I was locked in a dark room by myself, with nobody to talk to or anything to do, I would still feel happy because I make myself happy.

Once I came to the realization that happiness is selfish, I was able to watch the short film without tearing up. I knew what made me different from the rat, and I was no longer scared. The rat was merely following what other people told him would make him happy, but the reality is, no one else can show you the path towards finding your own happiness. I do what makes me happy, and I don’t let what other people tell me change my path of happiness.

External factors can definitely influence your path, and they can guide you, but ultimate happiness lies in how you perceive yourself. Perhaps, happiness is the one thing we can truly be selfish about; after all, each of us deserves a happily ever after. Just maybe, unlike the fairytales we read about, we don’t need a fairy godmother or a prince charming to give us the ending we deserve; we can make it ourselves.

Link to video: https://vimeo.com/244405542