When I was 16, I was spending the day with a group of my best friends when the conversation quickly turned to boys.
I’d recently begun dating a guy I’d liked for a while and my friends were also in the beginning stages of various teenage relationships, so we gossiped and laughed and told each other secrets.
As we sat around on the floor picking from an excessive selection of snacks, my phone buzzed.
I don’t remember the exact words of the message, but I remember what it meant.
My boyfriend had just broken up with me. Through a text message.
Looking back with more than a decade of hindsight, I can joke about it.
But at the time, as a teen surrounded by her friends talking about how happy they were, I felt alone. Alone and sad and not good enough.
Mamamia’s new podcast Overshare cuts the BS and gets candid about everything from sex and relationships to mental health. Post continues below audio.
Despite how deeply personal and isolating these experiences feel, over ten years of telling women's stories, Mamamia has found them to be profoundly universal.
Almost all of us have faced rejection. It stings and it’s a feeling many of us will never forget.
But no matter how we felt when we opened up that message, and how many hours we spent dissecting every little interaction and wondering where it went wrong, we are not alone.
So in honour of all our rejections - which gave us character and helped make us the fabulous women we are today - we asked women to share their most brutal rejections via text, DM or social media. There’s power in talking about our most vulnerable moments, to remind us that no matter who we are, we're likely to have all been through the pain of not feeling 'good enough' for someone we wanted.
"We were friends for a really long time and went on two dates. I asked him out for the third time and he said ‘I’m sorry for leading you on, I just don’t think I’m ready for a relationship at the moment’. I initially felt a little idiotic but then got over it pretty quickly since I hadn't developed feelings for him as yet.
"A few weeks later, he messaged me out of the blue to say he missed me and to ask if we could be friends with benefits and then I got to do the rejecting. After this message I couldn't stop laughing to myself. I was so glad he rejected me in the beginning because I would never want to be with someone like this. I really wanted to say ‘lol no’ but I know how embarrassing getting rejected can be for some people so I just said I wasn't interested."
"Ok so basically, I was around 24 at the time and had met this guy who suddenly really got into bodybuilding. We dated for around 6 months or so. He became really obsessed with his weight, counting calories, shredding and all of that stuff. I remember being in his room getting changed and he was looking at me as if he was analyzing. It was the most far removed from a romantic stare haha. Anyway, that night, I get this text from him saying "You'd be killer if you lost weight, sorry this ain't for me". Literally verbatim!
"I was definitely shook, I can't remember how I reacted but I kinda just deleted his message and carried on. So hectic. Also, side note, I hooked up with his best friend after hahaha."
"I had been dating a guy for about 8 weeks. He was a bit odd but I had self esteem through the floor and didn't realise that just because someone liked you you didn't HAVE to date them back. That's another story. But THIS guy broke up with me over text message. The reason? I had been out drinking with my friends and lost my wallet on the walk home. When I called him to tell him of my silliness he reacted in a weird way. In that he didn't really react at all. When I tried to explain I was upset and looking for a portion of human empathy and not cold indifference and grunts, he hung up on me..."
"The phone call ended and I was confused. A few hours later I received a text message saying that we were done and he didn't need my kind of drama in his life.
"That afternoon he came by to get his stuff from my house, he picked it up and left my house as quickly as he arrived, so I walked out to my apartment balcony to watch him go back to his car. I lived in a big apartment complex where everyone's balcony opened up onto the car park so lots of people were out there soaking up the spring sun. Compelled by the ridiculousness of the situation where I had been broken up with for losing my wallet I shouted from my balcony "HAVE A NICE LIFE YOU HUMAN DUMPSTER FIRE" and was applauded by my onlooking neighbours."
"It really stung because I felt it was more of her not liking how I looked like physically or not giving me a chance. It might've been cause she found someone more attractive or that she clicked with more, but the timing and the way she did it felt like proper rejection.
"I have a feeling she might've either checked out my pics and didn't like what she saw, or maybe she thought I was too pushy? Either way, it hurt my ego and made me really self-conscious about dating again."
"I remember it all as clear as day. Early summer one year, I was 22 and I was seeing this much older guy. It started off very passionate and intense and unlike anything I’d ever had before. James seemed to be very much into me. Christmas goes by and everything seems fine. By January I noticed a slight cooling off from him but don't think too much of it. Then I noticed there was more and more time between responding to texts. This guy had literally just told me he had very strong feelings and hadn't felt that way in ages. I unfortunately had started to fall in love with James. But then suddenly, he broke it off. I asked him "Why? Is there someone else?" and he said no. I was stunned. What did I do?
"After a few emails back and forth for a month or so we catch up for a drink. Then it was back on. I was thrilled. There was constantly this niggling bit of doubt in my gut though - something didn’t feel right but I couldnt put my finger on it: Maybe the fact he used a condom when we started having sex with me should have been a red flag? So this goes on for quite a few more months. During this time James had mentioned his ex-girlfriend sometimes. I was supportive of what he told me and I spoke of my ex too. Soon he stopped calling. He stopped texting. He completely ghosted me. I felt sick. What had I done?? One day, later in the year (a few weeks since I last heard from him) I got a text: ‘I ran into my ex girlfriend today. We decided to get back together. You are a great chick. Sorry.’"
"I don't think I’ve ever felt so sick or heartbroken in my entire life. I knew that he didn't just bump into his ex - I knew that obviously he had been bumping into her for a while.
"To cut a long story short I was still a bit stupid with him for a while. Eventually it ended and I met a lovely man and married him… and I'm pretty sure James is still single, lol. The truth is though, I don't think I have ever completely recovered from that text message or from the whole thing. Sad truth.
"However, it was a good life lesson to always listen to your gut and any niggling feelings you have - your body is responding to you for a reason."
"I went on a few dates with this woman who was a bit older, a bit more refined than the people I usually go for. We went to dinner a few times, and everything seemed to go fine! We kept seeing each other for a few weeks, casually. I met her housemates and they were really lovely. Her housemate was her ex partner, which was fine with me – she assured me that their romantic relationship was done but they were still friends."
"Then one night, we had made plans to see each other at her place, and a few hours before she messages me with 'I should’ve probably told you this but I’m back with my ex and have been for a while lol soz if you thought this was anything more'.
"EVEN THE LOL!
"It's not that I had necessarily even thought it was something intense/committed, but I definitely thought it was something. It was so immature and brutal, all I could respond with was a thumbs up."
"I messaged a guy to ask like ‘Heeey, what's going on with us?’ because we'd been seeing each other for like four months on and off and I'd go to his house but we wouldn't go on dates and he seemed into me sometimes but also... not. And he replied by saying, ‘You’re not a girl I can see myself dating, we’ve had fun but I can’t really offer you anything else’.
"I think part of me knew but it was also horrible to hear. I don’t care how good your self esteem is, that stuff really throws you. I felt really low and down on myself. It’s interesting though - I got over it very quickly and just accepted that I’m not for everyone."
"I had a boyfriend who lived overseas, I’d just returned home from my trip to his home and we had been planning the next one. He texted me to say “I don’t think you should book any flights back here because I’m just not that interested.” This was after involving me in developing his businesses and putting things in place for me to move over there. Cheers mate.
"We were only together for a few months, one of those ‘starts in flames, ends in flames’ ones. I had absolutely no idea that text was coming, I honestly thought everything was fine and was looking forward to my new life with him, working on the business together and drinking espresso and soda every morning. At the time, when I got the message, I didn’t believe it. My response was ‘Really?’ And he had turned his phone off. It made me feel like a piece of shit, worthless. It made me doubt my instincts and intuition because I genuinely had no idea. I thought he really loved me and we were equal.
"Looking back, I am confused and don’t know what I was supposed to learn. Maybe it was just that I needed to experience some pain? I am in the beginning of the first relationship since then, as I spent a long time not interested in men after that and just wading through the hurt and learning about myself. Learning that I wouldn’t die. I am terrified of something like that happening again but in the same breath know that I’ll survive if it does."
"I met this guy on Tinder (I know) and it was going pretty well for a few months. Like so well we’d spend full weekends together, go on romantic dates and text 24/7. But then I think it was around the four month mark that he started acting weird. He’d gone away on a trip with his mates and when he got back he took longer to reply to my messages and had all these random plans on days we’d normally spend time together.
"One night I had this weird feeling in my gut and couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning for hours and trying to remember all these little tiny things I might have done wrong. Eventually I thought ‘fuck it’ and I messaged him at like, 1am to say “Why do I feel like you’ve gone off me?” And he replied within minutes, which I wasn’t expecting. He must’ve seen this as his opening to get out of things because he was just straight up like “I don’t think this is going to work out, sorry.” I pressed him for answers and he was like “My friends made me see we’re not well suited” and he never explained why even though I asked more than once. It was such a cop out because I had never even met his friends. How would they know that? Eventually I gave up trying to get an answer and was just like “I don’t appreciate having my time wasted, I wish you all the best” even though I was FUMING.
"It was only a few weeks later that I saw him tagged in photos on Facebook from a party with a girl he knew sitting on his lap, so I guess he was just too cowardly to tell me about it or wanted to live the single life. I was upset for a while but I deleted him on all social media after that, realised that’s not the kind of person I’d want to be with and now I just look back and laugh about it. About a year later I met my now-husband. I have absolutely no idea what that guy is up to and I really don’t care."
The above stories are all stories of rejection. They’re brutal, yes. But they’re also stories of resilience, of growth, and ultimately, of acceptance that your worth isn't tied to the opinion of another person.
That text I received as a 16-year-old came to define how I approached dating for years, making me so terrified of being hurt again I would feel the need to hurt others before they had the chance. It wasn’t until many of my friends - unfortunately - went through the same thing that I realised that the rejection wasn’t a reflection of me as a person.
Now I know how many women - smart, capable, funny, adored women - have had their own brutal experiences.
That's the unique power in women telling their stories, no matter how trivial or deeply individual they may seem. Your words, without you knowing, might be the shape of another woman's pain.
*Names have been changed.