What an Attack in a Public Forum Taught Me About Self-Expression & Sensitivity


Expression & Sensitivity

As I sit and write this, it's Friday afternoon and cloudy & cold out, and I've had time to process after 'coming down' off of my emotional high from the events of yesterday evening.

I normally don't write when I'm in what I call 'sensitive mode', but I have cooled off enough that this blog post was born and it's getting written.

Let me paint the picture for you.  I spend (right now) 8-10 hours a day working for someone else's company - then I come home and work on my own, sometimes for 3-4 hours after that.  I'm not complaining; it's what I chose.  However, I've taken great care (and I do mean greatcare) to create a circle of family & friends who lift me up, are supportive, will tell me the truth, and aren't 'yes' people.

I have deliberately cleared my life of many relationships and/or situations that were very unhealthy for me, or even felt forced.  Especially after learning more and more about myself and my form of introversion this past couple of years - a social introvert who's an intuitive thinker, lacks tolerance for the wishy-washy relationships, and is, on occasion, very sensitive to some things others may deem as "normal" or "no big deal".

In addition to the above, which have somewhat shaped mantras I've set forth in my own life, I've embedded this same thought process, values, community feel, and expectation into my own personal brand.

This is not a place where rudeness, nastiness, or judgement is tolerated, IN the least.  I've taken great care to create that type of environment here. We get beautiful comments in this community, our private community is moderated well, and I work with well-qualified clients and gorgeous souls.

So when I come home & open my laptop to interact online, there's certain things I'm looking for (maybe YOU can relate?):

  • Connection on an authentic level
  • Fun or relaxed humor
  • Inspiration or ideas
  • Deep or nuanced thoughts, articles, or opportunities

A Lesson on Public Forums

I also like to practice what I teach, so from time to time I take risks in how and where I express my thoughts, opinions, and desires to make connection.

Sometimes, that backfires.

Earlier this year, I joined several forums, which isn't really my style (one of my recent clients called it 'ordered chaos' which I just love).

Up to this point, those places of community offered me a chance to connect with other introverts, engage in more of my own self-expression, and take risks on being more seen and having my business be more seen.


Before I continue my story, let me give you some tips if you're looking to become part of online communities for this purpose of increasing your self-expression:

  • First of all, know that it's a great idea - there's nothing wrong with it, and many introverts enjoy online public (or private) forums where they can self-express.
  • If possible, scope out the environment of the forum first - how do people treat each other?  React to others' sharing of certain things? Openness to new ideas?  Watch & learn...if you can't do this, if you trust the person moderating it - go for it - sometimes you just have to risk it!
  • Once you decide it's probably a great place for you to insert your own conversation and become a part of theirs, you will often enjoy this type of forum greatly and I encourage you to pace yourself with inserting yourself gently - it will grow your self-expression quite a bit and get you out of some comfort zones you might likely be living in.  (We have a delightful, self-paced community like this here on tamishaford.com over in our private, G+ community - you must have a Google Plus account & request to join.)


My story continues....

I went into a private community yesterday, simply to get inspiration from the only people who would actually USE what I have had on my mind - which was creating an app for introverts that would really serve them during their typical days, right from their smart phones.  I simply asked the question, "what are some pain points you think an app would answer?"

I was appalled at how I was treated in this forum from this.  I was called an 'opportunist', griped at for posting (literally a handful) of blog posts in the forum months ago (which is allowed by the rules), and told that I was just "looking to make a profit from someone else's idea, only to never give them the credit."

I was basically ran-sacked by this one particular person, right in front of everyone.

As a highly sensitive introvert, this sort of thing immediately has a few effects on me:

  • Anger at the nerve of someone to question my integrity
  • Hurt feelings over the implications
  • Desire to 'respond in-kind' to the attack (read: retaliate)

I can tell you that only a few short years ago, I would've reacted very differently to that kind of confrontation.


There's a few things I've learned about myself in the past couple of years that aided me in handling it well, and I had to do what was best for me in that moment.  I felt like it was best to delete the thread & exit the group.  But one thing I want to make clear is that the only reason I made that decision was because I had made a few mistakes, and I knew it just wasn't the place for me immediately:

  • I did not scope out the environment or posts first, before I inserted myself into the conversation - there was no gentleness in how I became part of this community
  • I never made a conscious, informed decision that this was a place my voice would be respected - I simply made the declaration to myself that's what it would be because of the size of the group

Two huge mistakes.

Me leaving the group & deleting the thread wasn't my passive aggressive way of dealing in that particular situation (whereas it could've been if I was just in a mode of "well....I'll show them with my exit!")  That's never really what we're going for.

My exit was me saying "okay, I'm upset right now yes, but I made some mistakes initially before I gave myself the conscious chance to make a right decision in how I interacted and, I need to make better choices in the future when joining public forums - this isn't a place my voice is valued, so I want to be respectful of their space and honor what they're asking - they don't like the things I'm sharing or asking."

On Self-Expression & Sensitivity

If you're anything like me, this put me in a foul mood.  I closed my laptop, cried for about 10 minutes and then I turned on Bravo TV.

As a sensitive, intuitive introvert, I needed about 2 hours to come down off of that - it used to take me days.  Those kinds of things, yes - even online, are draining for me, they elevate my blood pressure, and they cause me a bit of anxiety.

I don't like confrontation.  I will embrace it if I absolutely have to, and I can usually hold my own, but I hate it. And I'm sensitive to it, and it affects me.

In that moment, this is how I felt:

And often the result of daring greatly isn't a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of freedom mixed with a little battle fatigue. --Brene Brown

She also explains the purest definition of vulnerability:

"capable of being wounded" and "open to attack or damage."  

It's derived from the Latin word vulnerare, meaning "to wound."

Right on.  

If I ever felt capable of being wounded, it was then.

Regarding my app idea, I never a) said it would even BE a paid app, b) planned on using any ONE idea (because ideas always change anyway - and they morph as they grow), or c) was looking to just "make a buck"

And it was in that moment, I realized it was a teachable one- for you and for me.  There were some things I could take away for all of us on self-expression and sensitivity both.

On Self-Expression

This person doesn't know me (and they usually won't know you, either).

They obviously have no insight or connection with me whatsoever, which would explain why they wouldn't understand my motivations, intentions, or my spirit on a day to day basis.  Remember when you are attacked or scoffed for your opinions, sharing, or your work, that it's usually going to come from folks who are less familiar with you, your lifestyle, or your intentions on any real level. It's no disrespect to them, but those kinds of people don't deserve elevation in your mind- they haven't really earned the right to have a verbal bearing on your self-expression.  They have a right to their opinions about you, yes, but it doesn't give them a license to publicly humiliate or embarrass you, which leads me to #2.

"If you're not also in the arena getting your butt kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback."  (Also from Brene Brown)

Communities, boards, non-profit councils, CEO meeting rooms, church boards, executive suites, committees, cities, businesses, school boards, and movements are all full of people who just love to sit back, fold their arms, and look for everything you're doing wrong because they don't have the audacity to do what you're trying to do or take the risks you're trying to take.  In those situations, the above quote should always be applied.

This person cannot be changed by me.

I used to be a chronic people-pleaser. And I do mean chronic!  I went everywhere they wanted to go, did what they wanted to do, suffered through the extroverted noise & boisterousness, and subjected myself to countless events I never wanted to be at, all for the sake of "fitting in."  Then....I stopped. And with that decision also came the decision to free others I kept trying to change to be more of what I wanted them to be.  I realized that I didn't like being coerced, so why was I also engaging in that negative energy exchange?  We both deserved to be who we were....once I learned I would never be able to change another human being, everything felt more free.  The person in that forum yesterday is free to be who she is, without my interference, and I'm free to continue to be who I am, knowing the level of integrity I operate in.

On Sensitivity

I'm allowed to feel what I want and need to feel to move to resolution.

If I want to cry, I can. If I want to move through a few fits of anger, I'm allowed to do so. And if I want to be vulnerable and post a blog about it, I'm okay there too.  End of discussion. There's no if's, no "but's", no "maybe's."  In order for me to move through the emotions, I need to do exactly that.  Trying to go around them is futile - for sensitive personalities, moving through the emotion is the only way to learn from it.

I'm allowed to let this experience inform my future experiences.

I think this is enough said - we're human, and we learn from human (and real) experiences. In Educational Psychology, we term this "assimilation."  Even as adults, we never stop this process.  You and me?  We're okay to let our future decisions be better, as a result of learning over time.  It doesn't give us a license to never engage in vulnerable acts again - that's passive aggressive.  No - in an assertive way, it allows us to say "I'm going for this again, but this time, I'm doing things differently."

Sensitivity can be the greatest teacher. If you're an HSP, you have this is a great advantage - the world needs more teachers like you.

I'd love to know from you:

How do you deal with sensitive situations as an introvert?  If you can, please share your exact process with me here...

I'm really interested in your thoughts on this one.  I'll talk to you soon,

Photo by henri meilhac on Unsplash