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

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Introvert GirlS E N S I T I V I T Y


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 great care) 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

1003931_10151893522118859_707788550_nA 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.”

1425794_10151872911233859_648161748_nOn 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:

[quote author=”Brene Brown”]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.[/quote]

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.


1176106_10151685711863859_149584693_nOn 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,

Whte - Copy (10) - Copy

(Image Credit)

Other photos are (c) Tamisha Ford.


  • December 13, 2013, 4:16 pm  Reply

    Wow! Thank you SO much for your vulnerability. I love that you can truly outline the steps you take to overcome situations in which your integrity is being questioned.

    I find it pretty difficult to really understand my processes when something similar happens to me. My truest tendency is to a) take it personally and b) analyze the mess out of the situation. I try to think of every little meaning behind the words and determine if this person was right or not. This often includes me seeking the opinions of others I love and trust to tell me their own opinions.

    Unfortunately, I can analyze for so long that I never actually make any true “action moves” on the thoughts that it brings up.

    Maybe if you create the app you were talking about you could include places where the user can input her own personal strengths or truths to recall when someone speaks negatively over her. Almost an on-line journal to refer to? I know this wasn’t your question on the blog – but it got me thinking ; )

    • December 13, 2013, 5:25 pm

      Thanks, Jess. I always love to hear your thoughts. You and I have talked about that whole “analyzing it to death” part – and yes, that is another thing I am guilty of at times, too. I’m glad you brought up the point about seeking the opinions of others, too because that can be both helpful and detrimental, depending on who you reach out to & what kind of mood they’re in at the time.

      Thanks for the app idea and for weighing in here.

  • Tracy Diane
    December 17, 2013, 8:38 am  Reply

    “Fools show their annoyance at once,
    but the prudent overlook an insult.” – Proverbs 12:16

    I ran across this in my reading last night, and it really hit home with what’s going on in social media. I engaged with impossible people a couple of times, but I decided it’s just not worth it. You are so correct: “This person cannot be changed by me.” They end up showing themselves for what they are without my ‘help’. I haven’t read many of your blog postings, but I’m going to start. Being a HSP has made me miserable my whole life and, while I’m well past the point of trying to please everyone, I analyze like crazy and get hurt very easily. Reading Wayne Dyer has helped me a lot, too. He has some spiritual ideas that don’t run parallel to mine, and he’s a little ‘over the top’, but he’s taught me that I have all the same rights to express myself and live my life as much as anyone else does. Darn it. 😉 Thanks for sharing; I look forward to the other responses and reading more of you.

    • December 17, 2013, 10:44 am

      Thanks so much for sharing that scripture, Tracy. I love it. You do have claim on expressing yourself, like we all do, and your voice definitely matters. I know I appreciate it here, for sure. Looking forward to connecting with you more here too.

  • Miriam
    December 17, 2013, 8:49 am  Reply

    My mind is racing with ideas about an introvert app! I can envision a panic button of sorts that brings up a slide show of great empowerment quotes, claming images, reminders of how to find calm in an extrovert world…things that are preloaded, and you’d have the ability to add your own images/words.

    Often we hear that introverts are “perfect” for the internet – as if somehow virtual contact is less taxing than face-to-face. There are days I can hardly stand to look at my Facebook feed – there is so much clamoring for my attention. And yet, I can respond at my own pace, I can answer after careful reflection, and I can be at home doing so.

    Always appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences, Tamisha. Your advice on the pre-work you can do before joining an online community is very sound!


    • December 17, 2013, 10:49 am

      Oh, Miriam – my favorite line: Often we hear that introverts are “perfect” for the internet – as if somehow virtual contact is less taxing than face-to-face.

      This is something I hear a lot & don’t understand because to me, the internet is just as bad and crowded as anywhere else, and energy has to be maintained online, just like anywhere else. To me, it’s no less taxing. Like you, I have to respond at my own pace, and I go through phases on social media where I enjoy some forums more than others at differing times – that IS a great thing about it. It’s always there when you’re ready for it.

      Thank you for being here & sharing your voice with us.

  • Patricia
    December 19, 2013, 4:00 pm  Reply

    I can ‘feel’ just how upset you were at the time. Like you, I give myself a set amount of time to ‘fret’ about something that’s bothering me, and then I move on. Two hours isn’t really long enough for me, but 2 days usually does the trick 😉

    On a positive note, I think of the world wide web as one BIG LIBRARY. As far as the internet serving as a haven for introverts, sometimes I find it downright energy draining. I don’t engage in chat rooms, instant messaging, or the like. It sounds bad, but I don’t necessarily care about reading family member posts on Facebook either. It’s all too much to commit to visiting, revisiting. I actually feel pressure and anxiety, and I’m not sure why 🙁

    As a side note: Our coaching session has been serving me well, I return to the site every week or so, and reread the material. In particular, I have paid special attention to the ‘put yourself in his shoes’ advice. As a HSP myself, how could I overlook that?

    I look forward to your posts, and I hope you’ll continue to share your experiences with the community. It helps me feel a little more ‘normal’ and a little less ‘crazy’ when others go through some of the emotions I do.


  • January 5, 2014, 10:22 am  Reply

    Tamisha, I connected with this on so many levels. Being a mostly quiet observer in the forum you spoke of, your post has help me to make sense of some of how unconnected and disheartened I have felt in some forums.

    Although we may have common traits and needs as introverts, our intentions, attitudes and perspectives can be so different. Going forward I will make it my intention to share my ideas, emotions and self expression, having allowed myself to ‘get a feel’ first that its the right place for me and “insert myself gently”.

    In terms of how I feel with sensitive situations; similarly to you, I give myself full permission to cry and not feel ok for a little while, remind myself that my ability to feel so greatly is something I actually like about me, and not give myself a hard time for it.

    When I have calmed down a bit I usually remind myself, everyone has their own internal map of the world and a different way in which act and respond in it.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts Tamisha.

    Happy New Year!


    • January 5, 2014, 2:17 pm

      Catherine – SO glad this resonated with you. I love that you mention “unconnected” and “disheartened” here. That is something I think many introverts feel in public forums that are overwhelming. It’s wonderful that so many introverts are connecting, but many of the communities have grown to size, where it’s no different than anywhere else on the web. Then yes, take the intricacies we each carry, and that some folks just aren’t as respectful or heart-centered as others, it provides for a difficult time to get involved & feel safe doing so.

      Happy 2014 to you, and here we go! Looking forward to learning more about you.


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