We cannot see who we are. The mirror shows us something when we stare into it. We do not know if what we see is what we are. This is a simple fact. Because our eyes are fixed inside our heads and we know what enclosures mean. We want our eyes to roam freely, but it is not possible. We live in the frame the holds us.
But mirrors allow light to bend. The bending occurs via reflection but the degree of incidence is not the same as the degree of reflection - these two are inverted in relation to each other. The distortions that creep in into the inverted image are not just of orientation but also of resolution and depth. The resolution refers to the materiality of the image. How we are seen comprises of tonalities that exist as layers of sheen floating on top of the cells of our retina. How we see ourselves, exists in the form of atoms and other particulate matter of the mirror. There is no overlap.
Mirrors cannot see.
If you understand what a shadow is, you can imagine the mirror to be a bright kind of shadow. It is not produced when the light reflected by the object is blocked by some other body. It is produced when the light reflected by the object is incident on the mirror.
The shadowy part within the mirror is active but unseen. We recognise shadows only when they are dark. We do not recognise bright shadows in the form of mirror-images. Shadows are produced because of the density of another body. It is not the source of any image information on its own. So mirror-images are bright shadows.
When the mirror-image is our only reference to frame ourselves, we mistakenly render ourselves as bright uni-dimensional shadows.
The problem with bright shadows is that they have a heart of darkness but an appearance that can be seen in plain-sight. This appearance is mis-leading. It is an illusion. Which is not to say that everything else is not, but the dual-order of illusions is difficult for us to deal with. We do not know what to just unpack and what to unpack twice. The problem with bright shadows is that they do not have any agency but they think they do. They have gone rogue, they do not behave. The truth is that we want to be aware of what we are and we cannot see ourselves. Mirrors are obstructing our ability to go beyond vision. Mirrors are a curse.
In order to be free from this curse, we have to find another way to form a mental picture of ourselves. When we refer to picturing ourselves, we more often than not are just referring to pictures of our body. A conception of the self independent of our body does not come easily. Every conception of the self is wrong because we will never be able to remember who we were after we have passed on.