Your competition can't compete because you're meant to be here.
My response was:
Exactly. I don't have any competition. I have friends and enemies, respectful supporters and plagiarists, peers with integrity and imitators. No competition though.
The only "competition" as a concept that I even acknowledge is in very specific fields under specific circumstances; two athletes competing during a game where it is part of their job to play against each other under a set of rules that determines a "winner." This makes sense to me. However, this idea that I have general competition because I exist and I create as an artist is exhausting to me. People try to make me their competition in areas where I have proven proficiency and they have not, but there is no game, no payment, no rules, no conditions that make our interaction a traditional competition. They simply want me to be disliked and their lower quality work to be liked, and they hope to impact my self-esteem. The former rarely occurs and the latter never occurs; I thoroughly enjoy clapping back at their nonsense by reminding them of this, however. In those specific instances, I will remind them that I am better than them at everything, and not even because I am competing with them—I never am—but because they are the ones invested in competition.
Additionally, such people try to use other people's skills and accomplishments—not even their own—to insult what I do. They mention other people's successes, by proxy, to imply "failure" for me, while not being able to do what I do and not understanding how my definition of "success" for myself has nothing to do with the famous names/elite spaces that they mention nor the visibility that they desire but do not have. People who try to make their own failed goals my goals and then use other people's successes to insult me desire competition, yet have no courage. It is fascinating to me that I have to be Annie Leibovitz as a photographer and Toni Morrison as a writer, to such people, yet they are not even the me of their fields, let alone the icons that they trot in front of me. If they were? They would not be concerned with what I am doing. They would be off somewhere being great.
Now obviously living in a capitalist society means forced competition for resources to even live, let alone in careers and social statuses; I am certainly aware of this, which I alluded to in Abusing/Exploiting Independent Creators Is Not "Fighting Capitalism". But at the same time, I do not have to adopt that mentality for how I engage my own creativity and how I interact with other artists. While I do not have a choice in terms of existing outside of an exploitative system, I do have one in terms of valuing who I am beyond what I do and not defining what I do via social statuses that I do not desire. There will always be creators, artists, authors, photographers, writers, and social critics who are less proficient than I am and ones who are more proficient than I am, based on primarily subjective standards, at that. None of these people are my competition. Not one.
I am not threatened by younger/less experienced people "taking my place" because they cannot. Sure, they can ethically engage with my work (which is great) or unethically engage with my work via plagiarism and erasure, but they cannot remove me or stop me from improving my skills and growing my body of work in time and in quality. I simply have more experience than they do and this is a fact, whether they accept it or not. They are not my "peers" no matter how they try to devalue my experience. I am not threatened by older/more experienced people "making me look bad" because they cannot. I value the sublimity of experience and expertise and I get excited about viewing and reading work that I think is superior to my own. Additionally, there will always be people who I view as peers, or people with equal levels of experience, proficiency, insight and respect for their crafts. They are peers though, not competitors. I cannot do them. They cannot do me.
I do not even believe in "competing with myself" anymore; this is an alternate concept that is often taught to people who take the first step in rejecting viewing everyone else as "competitors." Even taking this first step is often met with aggression, let alone deciding not to engage life as just an activity in skills improvement and little else. I can perceive my progress over time without treating how I feel about art itself as a competition. Over time on Twitter, I have shared thoughts about dealing with aggressive or even abusive people who are desperate to compete with me. Desperate and thirsty; it is awful. In 2016, I mentioned this:
I really wish people would stop trying to engage in oneupmanship with people who are not competing with them at all. Seriously; relax. I am not competing with anyone. I am not even in the building. I am not in the lot where the building is. I do not live in city where the lot is. I am gone. I was never there. I also reject the 'compete with yourself' thing now. I unlearned that as well. Life is not a linear progression measured solely in production. Like...my value as a person is not only about 'did I make 50 widgets this year instead of 49 widgets last year.'
In 2015 I mentioned:
You cannot 'compete' with me in a race I was never running with you towards goals I never desired as I do not even occupy that track. I am gone. I do not want anything you have. I am not interested in chasing or being chased.
Ultimately, teaching less experienced people, collaborating with peers, learning from more experienced people and traveling my own path is what matters most to me. Teaching less experienced people is still labor and requires consent; I do not respond to bullying and demands for "education." This is something that I addressed in I Do Not Care About Your "Learning" On Twitter. Collaborating with peers—not spammers, people playing business online, opportunists or parasitic people—means working with people who have equal or superior skills to me, present something that is mutually beneficial, and already have their own strong bodies of work without the collaboration. This is something that I addressed in Not All Requests To "Collaborate" Are Worth My Time. Learning from more experienced people means valuing their experience and insights without making demands on them on what they "owe" me solely on the basis of my unidirectional consumption their work. Traveling my own path means reflecting on my origins (i.e. Why I Write) and thinking about where I want to go in terms of creativity (i.e. One Day I Want To Dazzle). Competition and those endlessly seeking it can go elsewhere. Just as @xobritdear said, I am meant to be here. So are you. Be here. Create.