Former Miss South Africa and Miss World Rolene Strauss released her first book Reflections from the Heart/ Vanuit die Hart in Pretoria on Tuesday. Neziswa Kanju, who interviewed Rolene at the launch and has been reading her book, shares on the book and the writer’s journey.
Reflections from the Heart is a book of 52 devotions that make up a year-long journey of faith, growth and self discovery.
In her book Rolene shares the lessons she learned through her experiences as a beauty queen, wife, mother and ambassador for her country.
She is candid about her struggles and feelings of failure, and her striving to find a balance in fulfilling the different roles in her life. She shares how she has always pursued perfection and how she fell short in her pursuit and had to finally accept herself just the way she was, accepting that God loves her and that she had to let go of living up to society’s expectations of her.
Rolene shares how she always felt judged by society — from how she looked, to how she dressed, to what she ate and every aspect of her life, leaving her feeling that she was living under a microscope.
Targeting women, the devotional is divided into weekly sections, each with a specific area that Rolene has struggled with and which other women can relate to. From dealing with change, love, time management, letting go, choices, mentorship, responsibility and purpose, Rolene covers a broad spectrum of topics.
For the first five days of the week she shares insights into the chosen topic for that week. Day six is about finding wisdom from the Word and day seven is the day that the reader reflects on lessons learned. The devotional also boasts 12 full-colour pages of photos providing an exclusive look into her life.
Rolene was born on April 22 1992 and was raised in the small town of Volksrust. When she was a little girl she witnessed Jo-Ann Strauss being crowned Miss South and a seed was sown in her heart that one day she would also wear the crown. That dream was fulfilled when she became Miss South Africa in 2014. She won the Miss World title later that year, becoming the third South African Miss World after Penny Coelen in 1958 and Anneline Kriel in 1974.
Rolene got married to D’niel Strauss and shortly after, continued her medical studies that she had put on hold when she became Miss South. Balancing medical studies, being a wife and mother proved hard and she confesses that 2017 was the hardest year of her life as she struggled to fulfil all her roles the way that she wanted.
That year she experienced her breaking point, a point she says that finally suffocated her.
“I was almost consumed by guilt and my self-confidence wavered all the time. I felt like I was not spending time with my family, not working hard enough, not studying hard enough. Even my ability to raise our own son was measured by the ‘perfect mother’.
“I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had reached my breaking point and realised that there had to be more to being female than constantly trying to be perfect”.
This quest for perfection was as a result of an incident that occurred in her childhood when she was pursuing modelling. She recalls: “It was a summer’s afternoon in January 2007 when my self-confidence was completely shaken. I was 15 years old at the time. An elderly woman took a measuring tape to measure my hip circumference. “Ninety five centimetres! We will have to get it down to at least ninety centimetres little lady.”
I was immediately rattled. In an instant my life changed. I, a young woman who believed she could do anything she put her mind to, simply crumbled. From that day on, I constantly found myself being measured by the measuring tape called perfect.
At school that perfect tape measured my waist, height, hair and ability to do mathematics. At university it measured my intellect, ability to speak in public and my dreams of becoming a role model.
Even after I became Miss World in 2014 I had very little self-confidence. I never felt like I was enough. There were millions of eyes on me judging my every move and the measuring tape tightened.
She says after a lengthy time of self-discovery and introspection she finally realised that the answers she was seeking were in front of her all along. Her answers were in God.
She says that she realised that she had lost her identity in her pursuit of perfection. 2 Corinthians 12:9 freed her when she realised that God’s grace was sufficient for her. His power is made perfect in weakness. She did not have to be perfect. What a revelation! What a liberating revelation.
Rolene is a different woman these days than the woman who was broken and crushed in 2017. She says that she wants women to know that they are worthy. There is no perfect.
The passion to always inspire women to love and accept themselves has even affected the kind of content she posts on social media. She says that she makes an effort to present reality and not present the picture that her life is “perfect.”
“What I have realised is that most people think that my life is perfect and I have realised that perhaps I am contributing to this. There is a fine line between sharing real stuff and having a balance with what I share. I realise that there are young girls reading my posts, there are mothers there are women, businesswomen. How do I speak the truth and how do I make them think a little bit about life?
Her name means “Famous in the land of the Lord.” She is using the platform that fame has given her to speak into the lives of many women. She realises that many women have great potential but they are scared to follow their dreams. They let the circumstances of life paralyse them to not take steps in achieving their goals. They let disappointment and failure dictate the outcomes in their lives.
When she did not win Miss South Africa the first time she entered, that did not deter her from entering again. The first time she was not confident in speaking English in front of a crowd and this mental block made her stumble through her lines when it came to the time of questions and answers.
When she decided that she was going to enter again she prepared. She read many English books and read them out loud. She only spoke English to her best friend. She shares in the book that she was adamant that she would not leave winning Miss South Africa to chance but she was going to do all that she could to win.
This is her message to women. “Start moving in the direction that you feel “this is my purpose, this is my calling”. You will be steered. Sometimes we are scared and we do not do anything. God can only steer you in the direction He wants when you are moving.”
There are many “reflections from the heart” but the one that she hopes women will take away from the book is discerning their true worth and purpose and finding their own identity.