You think you know yourself. You think that, among other people in the world, you are the foremost authority on you. It makes sense, right? There’s nobody else that can get inside your mind, to feel and hear and see your thoughts in the way that you can. Nobody perceives the world quite like you do, so they can’t understand it in the exact same way as you do.

You think you know yourself, but there are things about yourself that you don’t know. There are things other people see about you, from their perspective outside of you, that you might never be able to see from the inside. It’s like sitting in a car, in the driver’s seat. You can’t see the roof of the car, so you don’t notice the white splat of bird feces splashed across the paint. The guy driving by in his truck sees it, though.

You could see the bird shit, with the right mirror, or if you stopped, got out of your car, and stood on your tiptoes. You can’t stand outside of yourself, though. Not easily. But you can get something like a mirror, if you have a good friend. If they describe what you can’t see well enough, it’s a little bit like being able to see it yourself, even if it’s not nearly as good.

Sometimes someone or something other than a good friend becomes your mirror. That can get messy. They might see a flaw in you, and expose it by clawing at it and cracking it open so that you break, leaving you wondering how you were ever whole and whether it was that flaw that used to define who you were as a person.

I wouldn’t call what I found out myself a “flaw.” Not inherently, and not by itself. It was the way I found out about it, and the way it had affected my life up until it was revealed to me, that turned it from what could have been a strength into a weakness. Not knowing about it turned a feature into a flaw.

I am Powered. I spent the vast majority of my life not realizing this, because testing wasn’t conducted on infants when I was born. The technology didn’t even exist yet. I never thought to have myself tested for excess essential energies, nor did I think to have my soul mapped, because I had no reason to believe I had any sort of Talent.

If only I had looked back at my life more critically and thought about all the little things that just didn’t quite line up, maybe I would have come to discover my Talent on my own, rather than having it revealed to me. I think I would feel better about it then. Instead, I just feel like a fool.

People like me. That’s my Talent. I have a very, very low pool of excess mental energy, and, according to the analysis I had performed after I found that out, it automatically affects the way people around me feel about me. Anyone who can see me, physically, feels more positive about me. They see me as someone whom they want to befriend. They see me as attractive and kind and whatever other positive descriptors you can think of, even when I’m not any of those things.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated pictures of myself. I’ve never felt like I looked good in photos. I thought it was just some subconscious thing I picked up from the media or from my mom or my friends or whatever. I can get dressed and do my hair and makeup and think I look great in the mirror, but then when I go to take a selfie, I’m never satisfied with it. There are very few pictures of me around for that reason.

This was reinforced by one of my female friends in middle school. Her name doesn’t matter, nor does the rest of her relationship to me. All that matters is my memory of saying, “Wow, I really hate the way I look in pictures.”

And she said, “Yeah, me too.”

“You hate the way I look?” I answered, pouting, even though I knew what she meant.

“No! Me,” she said. She opened her phone and used the camera to look at herself. “I’m so ugly.”

“Yeah, but look,” I said. I remember this clearly. “I look good, right? In real life?”

“Yeah, totally,” she said. “I love your hair.” She reached out to touch it.

“Don’t mess it up,” I snapped. I pulled out my own phone, took a picture, and turned it around so that she could see it. “Don’t I look awful?”

“Wow,” she said. “Yeah. I mean, no!” She looked at me, suddenly afraid, I think, that she would offend me. “You still look good. But you’re right, you look way worse in the picture. Like, wow.”

It turns out there’s a reason for that. My Talent functions on people who can see me, in real time. It doesn’t matter how far away they are, as long as they’re looking at the actual me. It even works on myself, if I’m looking into a mirror. I see myself, and I think I look good, because my Talent twists my brain just enough to make me like myself.

It has no effect on people looking at a video or a photo of me. That’s why I never liked them. A psychology course I took in college says that if you look at two photos of yourself, one of which is mirrored, you’ll prefer the mirrored one, and say that it looks better than the other. Your friends, who see your face far more often in its unmirrored state, will prefer that version. Both parties prefer that to which they’ve grown more accustomed.

Everyone in my life, including myself, was and is most accustomed to my face as affected by my power. From what I understand, my Talent doesn’t actually change my face, or anything about me, but it does make people overlook my flaws. It makes others, and myself, find me more attractive. It makes people want to be my friend, and it drives them to seek my approval. With enough exposure, it makes people love me, and want my love in return.

I’ve never earned a friendship in my life. I’ve never had to work to make someone like me, because everyone likes me regardless of what I do. I’ve never had to be a person worthy of love, because my Talent is a substitute for that. When I came home that day, after the doctors looked at my soul-shape and told me what it probably meant — probably, because they had to infer its effects from similar Talents; but I knew instantly they were right — I wept.

I wept, because I knew then that my husband’s love wasn’t real. For fourteen years, I’d wondered how I’d been so lucky as to have a man like him. Fourteen years of me looking at photos and wondering how someone so much more attractive than me could settle for me. Fourteen years of him making dinner and bringing me flowers and buying me sweet gifts and being incredibly, sometimes overpoweringly sweet to me, when I knew he was something of an asshole even to his good friends.

It wasn’t me. It was my Talent that made him love me.

I am a horrible person. I could blame my Talent, but it’s part of me, and it’s not my Talent’s fault anyway. My husband is not my first romance. I left a strong of men and women behind me, all of them deeply in love with me. I left all of them because I found someone I thought might be better. I married my husband because, of all the shallow, shitty reasons, he’s the most attractive man I’ve ever been with. And, as I now know, he’s the most susceptible to my Talent out of anyone I’ve ever met.

I left my husband because I found out about my Talent and I realized that I’ve hurt him. I took away his choice of who to love, because my Talent doesn’t even let him see me with eyes unclouded. It smooths over all the parts of me that are awful, and I don’t mean anything to do with the way I look. I’m a bitch. I don’t do shit for other people, because they’ve always done shit for me. I’ve never treated my husband right, and now, I feel like I’ve been abusing him with my power for fourteen years.

If I could, I would just leave everyone in my life. I’d go live like a hermit in the mountains, in a wooden house with no mirrors, and I would just avoid everyone else for the rest of my years. My parents and my brother don’t deserve having to deal with me in their life. My poor brother. He worked against me our entire childhood, without even realizing it. My parents gave me better gifts and better clothes and loved me more, so obviously. My brother had to work for every ounce of affection he could glean from them, and yet still, he never resented me because my Talent made him love me.

I thought that I was worthy of all the love I received, but I was not. I never was, and I can never be sure that I will be, but at least now I know myself better. I suppose that’s a good thing.

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