What Salvador Dalí Taught Me About Perfection

(The above art piece is inspired by Dalí and created by Dragomir Minkov, to whom all rights of the image above are reserved).

Tl;dr: This one’s for my perfectionists. The centre-stage is calling. It’s time to make the jump. The world awaits you.


I like art. A lot. There are certain pieces that resonate with me more than others. So much so that there have been times where I’ve been in galleries, have become fixated at one piece and am overcome with emotion. I stand there, still, for a good few minutes and am moved without moving. I’m probably also blocking some poor soul’s view (which I’m sure to apologize for, just, you know…once I’m out of my little trance 😅).

I’ll tell you about this one occasion though, which took place around this time last year, where I had flown to the Netherlands, saw an art piece, or a quote rather, and was moved once again. This time though, I was moved altogether differently. And by that I mean, it wasn’t in the usual way – this time I was triggered.

I’d found myself in Amsterdam, the city notorious for getting you high as a kite and loving life. And while my friends had 1000% come to do just that, I’d come to the city in hopes of getting a different fix – I had travelled in pursuit of art.

Now an FYI to my readers who may not already know, but as well as being known for its legalised use of marijuana, Amsterdam is renowned for being home to some of the world’s greatest art institutions. Spend a weekend touring Museumplein and you will have everything from Van Gogh’s best pieces at his very own Van Gogh Museum to works of art that are well over 800 years old and detail Dutch history, within meters of you, just next door, at the Rijksmuseum. Get bored of Renaissance art? Well that’s no problem – you have the Stedelijk Museum and even one of Amsterdam’s slightly newer museums, The Moco Museum, known for its modern and contemporary pieces of art.

It was actually at the Moco Museum where Spanish artist and surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí’s works were being displayed. You may be familiar with him, he’s the artist iconic for his moustache, amongst other things 😄.

Here he is, here’s Dalí for you:

dali ma boyyyy

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The Moco had brought together pieces from both Dalí himself and Banksy, with critics deeming this exhibition the get together of “two of the most single minded men in modern art”.
What I’ll say of the exhibition is that it was great. Banksy is known for his satirical pieces and his work definitely got a few chuckles out of me. And while, in all honesty, most of the visitors had come to the Moco in aid of Banksy’s work, it was Dalí’s work, one piece in particular, that had an effect on me…that triggered my thinking and left me utterly perplexed.

You see, his side of the exhibition featured a few of his well known quotes, plastered on the walls. You had great ones like:

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and;

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and;

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and;

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The commonality between all of these quotes lie in the positive vibes that they exude and also the fact that they all bare the truth. At least, I viewed them as truisms.

Except one quote that I didn’t. One quote that took the spring out of my step, quite literally. And that was because I was sprinting about reading these quotes, smile on my face, happy as Larry. Straight grinning’, I was, before I saw this next one. It read:

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And I thought ‘oh’.

I was having fun, taking inspiration from all this art and all these jazzy quotes and then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t. I thought “how you gonna do me like this Dalí?”. What do you mean I’ll never reach perfection?

It. Didn’t. Make. Sense.

I didn’t get it.

The perfectionists amongst my readers probably won’t get it at a first read either. It took me a whole another year of experiencing life and revisiting the quote until one day last week, buried under a pile of paperwork, with the thought of impending exams and the future that awaited me on my mind, I got it. Dalí’s quote made sense.

And here’s what I came to learn. Here is what Dalí taught me about perfection:

You see sometimes we are so overwhelmed with this notion of perfection that it gets scary. I’ll admit it, I get scared sometimes. I have all these big ideas, I have all this hope and I know just what I want. And it’s gotta be perfect.

And the thought of perfection and the fear of not achieving it, leaves some of us perfectionists on the cusp of becoming. Too scared to dive in but all too valiant to back out, we find ourselves at a standstill. And that’s a dangerous place to be.

We err. We dilly and we dally. Because what happens if it goes wrong? And what if it isn’t all perfect?

Remember earlier when I said all of Dalí’s statements were truisms, except this one? What I’ve come to realise is that this quote has truth to it too. And while the truth, for a perplexed perfectionist, is at first, a bitter pill to swallow, revisiting and looking at the quote with a fresh pair of eyes a year later, leaves the residual taste in one’s mouth a little less bitter. Maybe even slightly sweet.

Because Dalí’s statement now carries a new (much more purposeful, strangely comforting) meaning to me.

Dalí is telling us that this notion of perfection doesn’t exist.

What exists is you.

There is only you. And you are the best that there is.

And this is a message to myself, the perfectionist who sometimes doubts herself, before it is a message to anyone else. And this perfectionist is diving in. Are you?

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