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14 life lessons from Rui En: From mental health to supporting other women

14 life lessons from Rui En: From mental health to supporting other women
PHOTO: Instagram/Rui En

Actress Rui En has entertained us with many of her works. Known for her cool, steely image and for being fiercely private, Rui En surprised fans when she started her own Instagram account (@wilderseas29) in August 2021.

Since its inception, Rui En has not only shown a more personal and vulnerable side to her, but has also been advocating for issues near and dear to her heart. These issues include mental health, finding self-worth and many other life lessons that would be helpful for us, especially during this challenging Covid-19 period.

On starting social media


In her first post, she revealed that for privacy reasons, she was "vehemently against the idea of having social media". However, due to the personal upheavals she faced during the Covid period, she decided to jump onto social media as "a major regret would be having a platform but not using it to help others".

Consequently, Rui En has been using her platform to share tidbits of her life to connect with fans as well as to champion mental health issues.

On finding gratitude during Covid-19


Covid-19 hasn't been kind to everyone, Rui En included. While it can be difficult to find the silver lining through these difficult times, Rui En shares that "focusing on gratitude rather than the things we don't have helps". Besides doing up a Gratitude List each day, Rui En is thankful to have had the time to explore and rediscover various aspects of Singapore that she hasn't been able to before.

On overthinking and assuming the worst


In this post, Rui En shared a personal story about her dad being hospitalised two days before starting her Instagram. In it, she detailed how her dad suffered from unexplained blood loss and how she feared it could be colon cancer as his father passed away from it.

The results turned out to be all clear and Rui En's worries were unfounded. The event taught her a lesson though: "I struggle so much with living in the present, I basically just go straight to worst case scenario, and this has been an incredible reminder."

On the importance of mental health and talking about it


As a public figure, Rui En related that "there is an enduring school of thought that public figures should be mentally invincible and deserve to have all forms of abuse thrown their way, no matter how heinous."

However, she shared that she too, suffers from feelings of unworthiness from time to time: "Not feeling that I'm enough. This is something that plagues me even to this day. There are days I feel like a warrior, taking no prisoners, but there are days I lose that battle decisively and miserably."

She concludes that it is only human to feel that way, and hopes that her being open and candid about this can help others feel less alone.

"By no means am I complaining about my position or being ungrateful. I share all this, because just like how I was comforted by Osaka and Biles being human, I too hope that by being open about the stuff I struggle with, that it helps some people feel less alone. You're never alone."

On the human condition and how she plays different characters


Have you ever wondered how actors play such diverse characters that have no seeming connection to how they are and live in real life? A junior posed this question to Rui En and her response was: "With every role that I've played, even if I personally could not stand the role, there was invariably something I could identify with.

"Playing a bimbotic heiress? I could identify with the vanity, because after all, what other profession cultivates it as much? A childlike simpleton roaming the streets of Chinatown? All of us have an inner child that we've simply learned with time how to obscure."

She added: "I believe the reason why actors become better with age, is empathy. Pain, joy, grief, contentment etc. are the best acting teachers. For even if you differ greatly in views, ultimately what ties us all together is the human condition."

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On setting boundaries


Boundaries are set to protect oneself while trying to navigate the confusing world. For Rui En, she's been trying to relearn how to set proper boundaries. "A process I probably will be on for the rest of my life, is learning how to be gentle with myself. When I was younger I came to the conclusion that in order to be successful I had to be hard on myself. What I didn't realise was how destructive that can be, and how far I would take it. Am slowly unlearning this."

She went on to call out the double standards of setting boundaries, a trait celebrated in men but not in females. "It's always been especially apparent to me, that whatever gets a female called difficult, is sometimes celebrated in men as 'character'. Then finally, we can choose not to engage and walk away."

"Anyone who calls setting boundaries being 'too sensitive' and 'overreacting' is invalidating your emotions and gaslighting you. The latter term is a fascinating one, will dedicate another post to that later. Most people don't even realise when they are being gaslit, but it happens a lot."

At the end, she made her stance on setting boundaries loud and clear. "Peace of mind and joy is not always a given nowadays. I will fight to the bone to protect mine. And that, is okay."

On gaslighting


As a follow-up to the previous post on boundaries, Rui En was compelled to shed light about gaslighting as a "form of manipulation". She further stated that there are many types and ways one can gaslight or be gaslighted.

So for anyone who feels like they are being gaslit in a relationship, Rui En has this to say: "Believe this, you and your emotions are more than worthy enough for anyone to take seriously."

"My joy is something that I protect fiercely. The same joy that u see here all up in those space buns!"

On accepting when things don't go according to plans


When things go wrong or not according to expectations, it is easy to blame yourself. This is a reflex action that Rui En has lived with and is consciously trying to unlearn.

"The one thing that made a huge difference for me was differentiating between things that I could and couldn't control. There are many many many things we can't control. Sit down and think about it.

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"Many of us have the delusion that we are the 'masters of our own fates'. Acceptance that I am certainly not in control of many things, but that God is, has been incredibly liberating. It means that if I know I tried my best and anything goes belly up, I don't have to beat myself up about it.

"Unlearning a reflex action is a daily process. Somedays I win and somedays I don't. But it's ok. Am simply happy to be relatively free of the gang fights in my head."

On self-love


As Rui En said it best: "Self-love. Easier said than done, as most worthwhile things in life are."

Rui En, however, encouraged all of us to work on practising self-love with the simple activity of looking in the mirror and giving ourselves verbal praise.

"I tell you, the sheer awkwardness and discomfort I feel doing something so simple, says a lot about where I'm at in this journey. Sometimes I can't even maintain eye contact. With myself! However I'm determined to persevere. I try to do it during my rather extensive twice a day skincare routine!

Would you guys try this with me so I'm not alone? Let's do it together, report back in comments how it went for you. Push through the cringe, I feel you. We'll get there!"

On the emptiness of fame


To an outsider, being a celeb seems glamorous, with thousands and millions adoring and clamouring for you. But as Rui En revealed, fame is empty.

"Whether the reason was that I grew up in a home where everyday felt like a battle, or whatever other deep-seated origin, for as long as I remember, I was plagued by feelings of unworthiness. When I got discovered and signed, I proceeded to pursue fame in an attempt to negate those feelings. If everybody loved me, then I must be wrong about myself, right?

"What I discovered was that fame didn't alleviate those feelings, conversely, it created an even bigger black hole of emptiness. Have you ever been at a club, surrounded by hordes of people having the best time, yet felt completely alone? That's exactly what it feels like."

Rui En then shared a possible explanation from an article she read and how her mirror exercise (from the previous point) have helped.

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"The closest explanation I've come across is by Chris Hayes of The New Yorker. He explains that humans seek recognition. The caveat being that recognition can only come from someone that we value and respect. So fame in other words, can only give us attention, since it comes from people we don't know. Yet it 'feels close enough to real human connection that we cannot but pursue it in ever more compulsive ways'.

So yes, it is entirely possible to be loved by many strangers yet feel empty and unworthy. I don't need to list the icons who have succumbed to this. I must report back that the mirror exercise has been quite life-changing for me because saying affirmations aloud somehow quiets the scolding, critical voice in my head. So happy to hear that many are trying it together with me for the first time!"

On having empathy


"For a long time, I looked at roles as either good (讨喜) or bad (惹人讨厌), black and white." This was a sentiment that Rui En held for a long time until she realised that "hurt people hurt people", and the need for empathy to become better as both an actress and a person.

"Sometimes, I see actors casted in the 'bad' roles try their best to mitigate the nastiness. They say they can't relate, how can someone be so awful? The truth is, humans are rarely simply baddies or goodies. If only life were that simple. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we are all often both, simultaneously."

On uplifting other women in the industry


A veteran like Rui En would have seen and encountered the good, the bad and the ugly of the entertainment industry. In this post, she chose to highlight a predicament that females in the industry face, that she is vehemently against: the pitting of females against one another.

"In the entertainment industry, right from when we step in, we are advised to see our peers of the same sex as rivals in a life or death battle. That has never sat well with me. Yes, the Singapore market is small, but that doesn't mean we have to be petty, selfish and step on others to get ahead.

"In a world of women being pitted against each other even outside of the industry, I choose to rise above that to uplift other women."

Rui En went on to dedicate a short yet sweet message of support to junior Chantalle Ng.

"妹妹, resist with all your strength being changed, chewed up and spit out by this beast of an industry. Stay you. The you with all the sunlight, innocence and joy. Your 姐姐 will always be here for you. Love, En."

On breaking bad thought habits


To put it simply, Rui En believes that we are more than our thoughts. This is because our thoughts, through socialisation, can often be a detriment to who we are and what we can be. Learning how to untangle that will help us become greater, self-actualised versions of who we are.

"I'm not sure why it took me this long to learn something so simple. I am learning that I am not my thoughts, and how to observe my thoughts as though they were someone else's.

"We ALL have inappropriate, scary, negative, even evil thoughts that bring about emotions. We are conditioned by the world to accept our thoughts as the truth and that they must say something about who we are. Nope, not even close. Our thoughts are shaped by our childhood traumas, biases, world views, past experiences etc.

"Understanding this very simple concept has been transformational. The tricky part for me has been trying to detach and to watch them come and go, no matter how negative. The most challenging part is to make choices beyond those thoughts and to allow the emotions attached to those thoughts to happen without reacting to them."

On taking a leap of faith


At the start of this post, Rui En shared this quote: "Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life. — Naguib Mahfouz."

The quote became central to how Rui En viewed her foray to start social media, where there were many naysayers persuading her to stay off. "When you are a public figure, there is a constant barrage of (mostly) well-intentioned opinions sent your way.

"I should have hit a certain number earlier, my pics aren't 'exciting' enough, I'm posting too many stories, people aren't going to be able to accept me being so un-mysterious, I'm not high fashion enough, if I post about mental health there would be a stigma attached etc. I didn't make any of these up."

Rui En reflected that after two decades as a public figure, she still needs to shake off these doubts, both internally and externally. The result?

"But look at what I've gotten from taking that step of faith. New friends and collaborators, access to all the silly cat videos I could ever want for the rest of my life, but most crucially, the opportunity to help some people feel less alone."

Now here's to Rui En living her best social media life.

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This article was first published in Her World Online.

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