I have heard it from so many cake artists that I'm beginning to wonder if there is something to it.
I can't enter competition X; I'm too scared!
Only the judges will know if you will be seriously out-classed, and MOST competitions have different tiers (beginner, intermediate, master) so there is something for everyone.
SO WHAT if you come in 96th out of 97 cakes? Do it anyway! You will learn, you will get better!
Of course take some time to research what did well last year, find out who the judges are (if you can), talk to people who have entered in the past, etc.
THEN, use this opportunity to stretch yourself, to make the cake you dream of making but is so hugely time consuming that nobody would ever order it! Or the idea that is so out there, that people would need to see it to know that it is stunning!
but I don't know what I'm doing!!! I've never entered a competition before
So? Everyone is a first-timer at some point! Do your research, and expect to LEARN a whole lot! NOTHING compares to being there... IN the competition. You will learn some things by just going and observing, but you'll learn EASILY twice as much by taking the plunge!
Okay, now that I have thoroughly abused my shift button, go find a competition and enter it!!!!!!