This is a guest post by Jane Bongato

As a child, I was always a bit of a loner, although not necessarily by choice.

I was tall for my age and a bit awkward and uncoordinated when it came to taking part in sports at school. This meant that I was always picked last.

I wasn’t particularly good at any of the other activities that tend to be held in high esteem through middle school and high school, such as theatre, singing or dancing. And, to top it off, I suffered from acne throughout my adolescent years, which didn’t help my image with the popular kids.

While I was never bullied or purposely excluded from groups, most kids just didn’t seem to want to hang out with me or invite me to parties or after school activities. I tried to be more likeable, but popularity wasn’t in the cards for me.

This early rejection by my peers followed me through my adult years, and I have often struggled with low self-esteem and insecurity in social settings, which I now see has prevented me from reaching my full potential; both in my personal and professional lives. It wasn’t until a close friend confronted me about these issues that I realized just how much they had been holding me back.

We have all suffered rejection, whether from a friend, lover, sibling, parent, or professional acquaintance. Learning to deal with this rejection is vital to our future success. I haven’t fully overcome my fear of rejection, but facing up to it and taking action has helped me make significant progress.

With this in mind, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned through this process, in the hopes that others can benefit:

1. Try not to take rejection personally

When faced with rejection, we tend to take it as a direct affront to our skills, abilities, personality, or likability. However, most of the time, this isn’t the case; the timing may have been off, the other party may be dealing with a difficult issue, or the opportunity just wasn’t the right one for you. Simply put, rejection doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with you, it just means you haven’t found the right thing yet. So put your best foot forward and don’t let rejection defeat you. Instead, let it make you stronger and wiser.

2. Stay positive

When we have been rejected, no matter what the circumstances may be, it is easy to get stuck on a negative wavelength and focus only on what you are missing out on. However, when rejection closes one door, it also means that another door has been opened up to you. Maybe not getting that job you wanted means you can spend more time with your family, or maybe there is a better one just around the corner. Chances are that person you wanted to go out with wasn’t right for you anyway, and you now have more time and space to focus on yourself.

3. Don’t keep your emotions pent up

No matter how positive we try to remain in the face of rejection, chances are you will have some negative emotions and thoughts to deal with before you can move forward to bigger and better things. Rather than closing yourself off from others and controlling emotions during difficult times, open up and let your emotions out. You may think that holding back your tears and pretending to be “okay” will make you stronger, but in the long run, it will actually break you down and wear you out. Don’t be afraid to cry or be angry, and don’t be afraid to open up and talk to your friends or loved ones when you are going through something that is difficult for you.

4. Identify the reasons for your rejection

Rejection can be a great way for us to grow and learn from our mistakes. When you are faced with rejection, try to identify the reason so that you can do better the next time around. If you don’t get the job you were hoping for, call and find out what the reason was. Maybe your timing was off and you can reapply in a few months, maybe your CV needs some work or the company would like someone with experience in a certain area. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, but it does mean that there may be something you can improve on or learn from.

5. Work on building your self-esteem

Rejections, especially early on in life, can cause our self-esteem to take a hit. When this happens and you are feeling low or struggling with insecurity, it is important to address these feelings and find a way to move past them. There are many things you can do to build your self-esteem and confidence. Some examples: Making a list of your good attributes and asking friends to name your positive traits, dressing better and improving your posture, taking classes, and attempting things you are afraid of. The important thing is that you take action and start actively working towards accepting yourself the way you are as well as identifying weak areas that can be improved.

What are some of your experiences with rejection? Overcoming rejection? Join the conversation with your comments…

Jane Bongato is part of the team behind Open Colleges, Australia’s provider of online counselling courses. Her spare time is spent reading, volunteering in community services, and bonding with family and friends.