“X” is when you feel yourself an object, not a subject. when you want to please and impress people, either by saying what they want to hear, or by shocking them, or by boasting + name-dropping, or by being very cool.
The source of X is: I don’t know my own feelings…..
….So I look to other people (the other person) to tell me. Then the other person tells me what he or she would like my feelings to be….
….That’s why I’m so interested in moral philosophy, which tells me (or at least turns me toward) what my feelings ought to be. Why worry about analyzing the crude ore, I reason, if you know how to produce the refined metal directly?…
All the things that I despise in myself are X: being a moral coward, being a liar, being indiscreet about myself + others, being a phony, being passive.
from Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag, ed. Davd Rieff, via New York Review of Books December 18, 2008. Extract from February 1960.