Art is a very personal thing. When you create something, it's frequently a little piece of yourself. A spark of your creativity. To really fall in love with a particular piece of art and then put it out there for others to judge can be a scary thing. No one likes rejection. Not to mention the financial costs involved. It can cost 35-50 dollars to enter a photo in a contest. And that's frequently for a digital entry. For a physical show, you have to prepare a piece for presentation and have it framed and ready to do, if it's rejected, you've just dropped a pretty significant chunk of change for nothing.
But really, art contests are about outside validation. The need to feel approval for your work. I really struggle with this one. I feel, frequently, like I'm not a real artist because it's not what I do for a living. I teach high school history for a living. I'm not going to starve if I don't sell a photo, or get hired to do a photo shoot. I really don't make much money off my photography at all. The tie dyes I sell in the summer frequently fund my photography habit. But the photography is what gives me fulfillment. I have total impostor syndrome when it comes to my art. I know that my value as an artist is not measured by its popularity on social media, but it is still incredibly frustrating to create a piece I love, put it out there in cyberspace, and have it not make even a ripple in that vast, digital ocean. Sometimes, you just want to feel extraordinary at something.
Recently, I have been a finalist in a few photography competitions. I have that, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride" feeling a lot. Finalist is great, it's a big accomplishment in and of itself, but it's not "Winner." It feel that deep seeded feeling of inadequacy I've felt since childhood. I need to put those feelings away and enjoy my art for the sake of it being art. I do it because I love it. I tell myself that over and over again, hoping that some day, I'll believe it.