By AJ Miller
We are the genies in the our own lamps, and we can create our own dreams.
I used to spend most of my life daydreaming. I would daydream about finding a magic lamp, and asking the genie inside to make me skinny and confident and cool. I couldn’t imagine looking and feeling that way without magic—and I didn’t think that magic existed outside of daydreams. Most of my life was spent in a state of perpetual fear, doubt and avoidance.
My scarcity mindset overwhelmed me. I barely functioned. I was listening to a story told by myself, about myself, that had no happy ending, middle or beginning, and I believed every word. At 17, after a few failed attempts to find a job—with my weight and health starting to catch up with me, and having been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities—I was put on disability benefits, and that was my only means of income for the next 13 years. This created an ironic feedback loop of guaranteed safety and survival alongside crippling feelings of inadequacy, shame, and a lack of identity that only exacerbated the health issues and anxiety that had disabled me in the first place.
By the time I moved to Hawaii at 27, I weighed over 400 pounds, I smoked like a chimney, I drank to excess at every opportunity, I spent a vast majority of my waking hours in my room by myself, and I had nothing inside me other than frustration and disappointment in myself. I felt like the complete opposite of skinny, confident and cool.
One day I met someone who promised to teach me how to lose weight and reach my goals but, after only a few days, she disappeared without so much as a word of explanation or even an excuse. Normally, I would have used that experience as further proof that I wasn’t good enough, and I would have resumed living a bleak existence. But something clicked inside of me that day, and I decided that instead of being a victim I was going to take control.
I said to myself that day: “There’s no such thing as a genie; I have to make my own magic.” I didn’t know how I was going to change myself, but my instinct was telling me that the only thing worth doing any longer was to transform myself into the mental image I had always daydreamed about: someone skinny and confident and cool.
There’s nothing unique about me, there’s nothing I did that everyone else on earth isn’t capable of, and I didn’t need to go out and find an enchanted lamp to transform me and build the identity that was waiting for me. The lamp is in us. We are the genies! And when we wish upon ourselves, we can make our own magic.
I started by committing to the process. Then, I took a small step. I started going for walks, 5 minutes at a time, and I would actually put a gold sticker on my calendar as a reward for doing something, however insignificant in the grand scheme of things, to fight against my self-limiting beliefs about what I was capable of.
From there, I started to clean up my diet: I started cooking for myself instead of relying on processed food. I didn’t cut out soda entirely, but I made a promise to myself that every time I had the opportunity to buy a soda, I would question the urge. From there, I made a rule where I could have soda every OTHER time I went to the store. And from there, I switched entirely over to diet.
I lost 30 pounds the first month, and that proof of concept was all I needed to go all-in on the nutrition strategies that I had been researching. I knew that the time for self-doubt, excuses and hesitation was at an end. My destiny was waiting!
Today, at age 30, I weigh 224 pounds. I just passed my one-year anniversary since I quit smoking cold turkey, stopped binge drinking, and started working out, and my health actually improved so much that Social Security approved me to return to work. I was nervous at first because, while I had changed my story about my weight, I still wasn’t confident in my ability to keep a job. However, now I have a great job, working full-time, and most of my waking hours are spent providing service to members of my local community, rather than hiding away in my room.
There were a lot of ups and downs along the way, but it was all the first step of my journey of reinventing myself. I don’t always feel skinny, confident and cool, but I feel proud that I managed to accomplish something that I never used to believe I could do. And honestly, I think that’s even better.
AJ Miller recovered from the brink of helplessness, and his next goal is to continue improving himself so that he can pay it forward. He is committed to continuing to learn and grow as a life coach, as well as slowly taking on more challenges and more responsibility. His vision is to use his experiences to help young men improve their physical health, adopt a positive mindset and find the inner strength they never knew they had. You can connect with AJ at firstname.lastname@example.org.