I have always been a goal-oriented person; I am very driven to get things done on my own. My tag line as a child was “I do it I-self”, and that tag line has very much stuck. While the things I have wanted to work for have drastically changed over time, my drive to set goals and accomplish them has never wavered.

Unfortunately, and for reasons I still don’t totally understand, my goal as a brand new teenager at 13 years old was to be skinny. I didn’t see much wrong with that—that’s every girls goal, right? I wanted to reach a goal weight I’d decided upon in my head, and I’d be damned if I didn’t hit it. The only thing was, this goal weight wasn’t a weight my body could naturally achieve; it wasn’t healthy. But my determined self didn’t understand this. All I wanted to see was the number on the scale. I swapped my regular lunch for an apple, I poked at dinner every night only to tell my mom I would eat some cereal instead. I suffered horrible headaches, stomach aches, hunger pains, and worse—I got taken out of school for doctors’ appointments and was no longer allowed to play any sports. I fought with myself, I fought with my parents, I fought with my doctors. I didn’t care what anyone told me. I just knew the goal I had. Luckily for me, I had parents who were just as determined to accomplish their goal of getting me healthy. I can’t put my finger on what exactly snapped me out of the prison I’d made for myself in my head. I can only say today that I did eventually snap out of it, with help from my family, and I’m so thankful that I did.

Now, 12 years later, I have a new goal that I’ve set: climb Mt. Rainier. While this may seem a laughably easy goal for some (especially for seasoned climbers), it has been a wonderful goal for me. Why? Because it’s a goal that stresses physical strength and physical health. A mountain doesn’t care if you’re skinny. My 13-year-old self wouldn’t make it 1 hour climbing. And so I’ve seen a mental shift from working out to burn calories and burn off dessert to working out and eating well to make myself as strong and as capable as possible. I am far from the goal weight I set for myself as a teenager, but I have far surpassed what I ever thought I was physically capable of. Sitting here today, I don’t have the stick arms and non-existent waist I thought I wanted; my arms have muscles, my core gives me balance, and my legs can power me up a steep incline. And I am happier with myself and with my body than I ever have been–much happier than I was when I did hit my (no longer) goal weight 12 years ago.

Skinny might get you compliments, but it won’t get you much else, and it certainly won’t make you happy.  As I embark on this journey to accomplish, or attempt to accomplish (which is more important) this new goal, I am reminded of how far I’ve come and how proud I am to have found so much joy in feeling healthy and strong. A number on a scale or a size does not define you, but your happiness and your health can, and that is much more important.

Women weren’t created to strive for society’s version of beautiful; we were created to be our own version of beautiful–strong, resilient, smart, and capable of all the things we dream.