Illustrations: Reza Hasni

Confessions of a Spiritual Dickhead

My monastic lifestyle and holier-than-thou righteousness covered up a long-held secret

Sean Hotchkiss
Published in
11 min readOct 18, 2019

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It has been my experience that before we know who we are, we learn who we’re not.

I spent my twenties learning I wasn’t a coke-snorting frat boy, or an Upper East Side yuppie in a pinstripe suit. And in my early thirties, I had to swallow the hard fact that I’d never be a downtown fashion influencer, or a rare-vinyl-collecting Brooklynite.

But there was another identity left to try on. One that came disguised in the tie-dye and Birkenstocks of peace, love, and good vibrations.

When “spirituality” went mainstream a few years ago — either as a by-product of the health and wellness rage in Western culture, or a reaction to our frightening political and environmental future — I was an easy convert. I’m pretty sure it all started when I wrote this piece for GQ back in 2016 about how I overcame my shopping addiction.

By the time I’d emptied my closets of rare selvage denim and lavender pinstripe Paul Stuart suits, I was sure of it: I had single-handedly beaten materialism! I sent the link out to everyone I knew still blowing their entire paychecks on Celine. Sheep, they were. I was so morally superior.

In fact, I’d spent pretty much my entire life trying to cover up a ton of insecurities that all stemmed from the same idea: I wasn’t good enough. I think most of us share this belief. It’s pretty human. (The entire advertising industry, Christianity, and capitalism depend on it.) It’s hard to say whether we’re born believing in our deficiency, but if not we certainly pick it up along the way: Maybe it’s an angry parent, a self-righteous teacher, or a classmate that bullies us. Maybe it’s a magazine or a billboard telling us we’re too fat, too skinny, or too poor. Eventually, the world affirms our inkling about an inner lack.

For my part, I learned at a young age that I wasn’t enough to save my parents from getting divorced. I wasn’t enough to measure up to my stepmother’s lofty standards. And I wasn’t enough to live for. That last part was clear when my father jumped off a 36-story bridge in 2005.

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Sean Hotchkiss
Forge
Writer for

Los Angeles-based men’s coach. Writing about modern masculinity. Read my essays here and in GQ, Esquire and Men’s Health. www.seanhotchkiss.com