Competition within martial arts can be a very good and positive aspect to the training. Remembering that it is a Martial Art with a sporting aspect and not the other way round. The martial code or Tenets should also be practiced in the sporting aspect.
If competition is to truly benefit the training the first pit fall to avoid is comparing yourself to others. By all means look to others to inspire you to improve. It is all about improving on your previous self as opposed to bettering others.
Using a task oriented approach instead of an ego oriented approach is more beneficial. Having said that the ego or confidence is still very important if under control, as it fuel's one to do better. The problem comes in when some get totally disheartened or give up due to not "winning" against another.
Entering is never losing! Looking at the many aspects in your particular category entered, there are many victories and losses in one match. You should pat yourself on the back if you improved on a certain aspect from the last time because have been working on it or tell your self to focus on a particular weakness you may have come across during the match. This task or climbing the ladder approach yields fruit over time, as I have seen time and time again. Seeing someones perseverance pay off is extremely rewarding to the individual and to me as an instructor.
Perhaps someone has a mental block against a certain category or entering in general. Just getting over the hurdle and doing it is a win in itself. You see there are many victories to be had !
Also if only comparing ones skill to others is totally unrealistic. As there are so many factors involved. Imagine the person you always go up against happened to be Bruce Lee or alike. Not winning and improving time on time would not be a loss. Infact the tougher the opponent the better one gets. Sharp blades sharpen each other.
The many lessons learned through competition can help forge positive characteristics for everyday life. The highs, the disappointments and how you react all reflect to many aspects of ones life. They could range from gaining tenacity, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit or endeavoring to remain humble. Each persons journey will dictate the lessons to be learnt from competing.
I mentioned some pitfalls in my previous red flags article which should be avoided in order to make competition more valuable for the martial artist.
Also remembering the martial arts and ITF Taekwon-Do in particular is one of the hardest disciplines to judge in competition. Some descisions can very disappointing to a competitor, coach or parent. I have been on all of those sides of the coin. Until technology can fully catch up with the needs and even then Patterns for instance can be very much up to individual taste and the many organisations and even clubs emphasis.
Until then we rely on humans and sometimes even though doing ones best to have fair decisions it can slip. One has to make it extremely obvious and be many points ahead to try to guarantee a decision. It is better to take what one has improved on as the main motivation at the end of the day. As difficult as it can be sometimes.
All of that was not even mentioning the many health, fitness, skill, camaraderie and general improvement gained from the training for a competition, which is actually the biggest reason to compete in the first place.