Does a story slam feel like a ritual sacrifice with your heart in your hands?

It is that time of the month again, and I am not referring to the women’s cycle of re-creation and renewal, nor to the full moon bursting in the sky, but to the time of the month when storytelling events are looming in my calendar. 
 
I host a monthly true storytelling night in Woodend, a town just down the road from where I live and as part of hosting I always prepare and tell a personal story. 
 
I do this because it warms up the room, I fill a spot on the list if we are not overflowing with tellers, and it is part of my practice, part of why I put the event on, so I have a place to share and tell, practise and learn about this art. 
 
And three days later, sometimes, I head down the highway with the same story in my pocket, to Melbourne, to tell on the big stage of‘The Moth’, where the lights are so blinding you hardly know the audience is there and people hang out in pairs or small groups, and your heart and soul, your story, is rated, compared and given a public number (its a competition).
 
It is very different to the intimate, country, community event in Woodend, where we are flexible with time and no one is ranked or rated, and even if you come on our own you’ll be chatting across chairs almost as soon as you arrive.
 
And I am becoming more and more convinced that ‘story competition’ is a travesty, especially when the stories being told are personal stories.  Spoiler alert: mini rant to follow.
 
In ‘The Moth Story Slam’ three groups of people in the audience are chosen as judges.  I can guess what the criteria are for judging the stories - theme, time, engagement perhaps? But I don’t know for sure.  Each set of judges give your story a number which is placed on a public board, next to all the other story scores.   A comparison feast.
 
This rating tells me little, even if I read between the numbers, about how to improve my telling. It does not tell me what was liked or not liked, it is not designed to support me but to rate me in comparison to the other stories, and it is soul frightening.
 
And as Parker PalmerBrene Brown and others explain, for the soul to show up it needs a safe, non-judgmental space; the soul needs love to appear. 
 
How can a personal storytelling event draw on the depth of human experience, how can a person feel free to tell a story from their shy, vulnerable soul, when that delicate seedling of understanding and wholeness is to be judged, rated, compared and decided upon?
 
Why would anyone tell a truly personal story, akin to putting their heart in their hands and offering it for others to see, when the slam process lives up to its name, designed to rate and reject.
 
Now I know there are many stories told that don’t come from deep in the soul, and there are clearly many people who can tell their stories in this environment, but I think this is either because their souls remain hidden, or even rarer, the teller is able to hold and reveal their soul, no matter what number they are given. 
 
We lose diversity of story and human experience in a competitive story environment because the thought of being rated is just too much; deep, complex and sensitive human experiences are not heard because the comparing kills it.  Hearts, just like lives and life experiences, are not for judging.
 
Storytelling is an art, and feedback about how you can improve, what people liked and where they were lost, how they were moved or not, are all great, if sought by the teller.   But a number on a ladder of worthiness is a barrier stopping many people from telling their stories.
 
So here ends my rant about story competitions.   What do you reckon?