I recently was fortunate enough to be a judge for a short story competition run by Chris Fielden called 'To Hull and Back':
It was an amazing experience. I've entered so many competitions myself so it's interesting to be on the other side, but I certainly realised how much competition there is out there.
On one hand it's heartbreaking to know that your beloved baby of a story might get marked down because of the tiniest of little things, because judges do have to look for the tiniest little things when there are twenty stories which show true talent. On the other hand, it's wonderful to see so much creative talent out there!
I found that it's strangely similar to a situation I have at work at the moment - recruiting a new member of staff. I sit there in the interviews, as I did whilst judging the competition, wondering how on Earth can I judge? These are all such talented people, and I certainly wouldn't want to be nit-picking, but such a high standard often forces us to. When trying not to, the decision could inevitably come down to, albeit subconsciously, your mood on the day.
I was pleased to see that Chris Fielden had decided to use multiple judges for his competition, including myself and a few others from my writing group. At least this makes it as fair as possible. Personally, I think that with any story, novel, piece of art, job application - whatever it is - that is submitted somewhere; it will work out when it's your time.
"This sounds like one of those cheesy 'everything happens for a reason' moments," I hear you cry! Well, we certainly have no control over if we are picked, but we can control our reasoning if we are not. If you are not picked/published/hired on any particular occasion, it is not a reflection on you as a person. It purely means that one particular opportunity wasn't quite right for you at that time, and there are plenty more which might come. The judges may well have loved your story too, so never take rejection to mean that your work was not good or that you were not liked.
Ultimately, you just need to keep trying. Persevere and believe in yourself, and your time will come. At least that's what I keep telling myself!