One of Judo's great masters, Isao Okano, on his fear of competition:
If I may be permitted a personal confession, never in the countless judo tournaments in which I have participated have I had a feeling of perfect security. I am always pursued by an uneasiness that I can only describe as fear directed toward the opponent I must encounter. When I reach the hall where the tournament is to be held, I always experience a vague sense of bleakness.
Though I cannot ascribe exact causes to the feeling, I am perfectly aware of its manifestations. The blood drains from my face, and tears well up in my eyes. I cannot carry on coherent conversations. Even when I eat nothing in the early part of the day, in the afternoon I am not hungry. I begin to have doubts abut myself: perhaps I am a coward.
The only thing for me to do is exert my best mental and technical efforts and fight to the last. After concentrating all of my attention on this idea, I assume the attitude that the imminent contest is my last one.
This has always helped me to reach the point where I can wager everything on winning and losing. Put in extreme terms, my approach to judo can be summed up in the idea of one last meet.
That an iconic figure of a sport suspects his own cowardice before competition proves the truism that anything worth doing is scary. The essential character development resulting from competition, athletic or otherwise, is rooted in facing our hard-wired fear of failure.
Society's dominant message is to hold equality of ability and opportunity above all other ideals. Resist the temptation to use this as a crutch. Establishing a hierarchy through competition is a quintessential masculine ideal rooted in honor and fairness. You are forsaking a part of your masculinity if you never test your abilities against others.