• Jill Clark

Stop Comparing, Start Celebrating: My Inspiration for my Children's Book

My sister was—and still is—smart. And beautiful. And athletic. My brother was—and still is—out-of-this-world smart. And athletic. And creative. Yes, I’ll admit, I was—and also still am—all of those things. Smart. Athletic. Sociable.

Yet, it was hard to keep up.

My sister was Valedictorian. State Champion tennis player. State swimmer. Engineer. Lawyer.

My brother was Salutatorian. Ivy Leaguer. Championship swimmer. Business savvy.

I was…well…me.

I got an A- the first semester my freshman year of high school and thought to myself, “Well, I’ve already lost track of the Valedictorian spot. I might as well stop trying.” So, I did for a while. And my GPA suffered. My self-esteem suffered too.

Looking back, it was pretty silly, wasn’t it? Trying to achieve the same. Compete at the same. Be the same as my siblings. But that’s what I did.

I got really good at tennis. I got involved in a million clubs and activities. I became president of my sorority. I even got a Ph.D., in some ways to prove I was just as smart, just as capable.

But none of that stuff really did the trick. It was my faith, not only in God, but also in myself, that finally helped me realize…

“I’m me. And ‘me’ is who I want to be.”

If I had eleven toes instead of just the ten, imagine all the things I'd do over and again.

It took a long time to get there. It took a devastating break-up as I witnessed my college sweetheart struggle and finally realize his own identity, some other seriously flawed relationships, some pretty inauthentic (to me) phases in life, and much more to finally be able to say “I’m me.”

Not “I’m me…as long as I’m in this relationship.” Or “I’m me…as long as I listen to this music.” Or “I’m me…as long as I’m wearing this brand.” Or “I’m me…as long as I hang out out with this crowd.” Or "I'm long as I have this job."


“I’m me.”

And some days “me” still isn’t enough. I look in the mirror and struggle with my appearance, my body proportions, my skin tone. I look at my children and wonder if I’m a good enough parent. I wonder if my son’s language delay is somehow my fault. If my daughter’s stubbornness (or leadership skills?) is also directly related to my personality. I wonder how I can be a better spouse to my husband. I look at others who go to the gym and tell myself I should do the same someday. I eat a lot of chocolate. I have trouble sleeping.

I look at my children and think, “Life doesn’t have to be this hard for them, does it?”

And that’s why I wrote If I Had Eleven Toes.

But If I had an extra toe, would socks and shoes still fit? Oh no!

If I Had Eleven Toes is the first book in a series that aims to promote positive body image and self-esteem. As adults, we think about the “what ifs.” What if I lost 10 (or 50) pounds? What if I got a raise? What if I got a dog? What if I got married? What if I had a kid (or a third kid)? Would life be better? Would I finally be happy?

That’s what the book is meant to be about, a child who considers what life would be like if she had an extra toe—if life would somehow be…better. Would she jump higher? Swim faster? Become a world traveler? In the end, something clicks. She realizes the grass is not always greener. Life is good just the way it is.

“I’m happy I’m exactly me,” as the book suggests.

I guess having an extra toe is not the greatest way to go. I'm glad I have just ten, you see. I'm happy I'm exactly me!

The news has been really hard to read and watch lately. We’re divided over skin color. Religious zealotry is rampant. Notable icons have lost their lives to battles with depression and substance abuse. Members of our own communities have lost their lives to similar and other struggles. Struggles with mental health are on the rise. Social media can be alienating and misleading.

In addition, time isn’t on our side. [As women especially] we feel we have to have the perfect balance between work and our personal lives. We have no idea when to exercise. Our to-do lists never get shorter. Feeding ourselves with healthy options is A LOT of work. Caring for others and being a good friend is also really hard at times. We constantly compare ourselves to others.

I don’t know about you, but my hope for this world—for future generations—is that people will stop comparing so much and start celebrating. Celebrating their own personal achievements. Celebrating their bodies. Celebrating their strengths. Yes, even celebrating their weaknesses.

Children need to grow up with more messages that help them celebrate exactly who they are. Because the news, mainstream media, doctors, lawyers (yes, sometimes even teachers, parents, and psychologists) are often trying to tell them to be someone different.

Behave better. Learn differently. Play more intentionally. Listen more carefully. Draw more geometrically. Read faster. Hit the ball harder.

Instead of these catch-phrases, let’s shift the narrative. Let’s instead say:

The way you learn inspires me to teach better. The way you play makes me use my brain differently. The way you listen helps me communicate better. The way you draw gives me new perspective. The way you read makes me more patient. The way you hit the ball makes you stronger in this area.

It is my hope that this book can begin to transform the messages we send our children (and maybe even ourselves) and help us celebrate what makes us unique and perfect just the way we are. So, let’s stop comparing and start celebrating!

Click here to pre-order your copy of If I Had Eleven Toes, coming to print in late-August.

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