You know I had big problems with blushing. For a long time I thought this was my problem. I can look back on my life now and see that the blushing was a result of other difficulties I was having in my life, for many years. Like many of us, the symptoms are a result of some long-standing environmental stress/trauma that then results in social anxiety getting hold through a lack of self-confidence and negativity. BUT, all this talk is easy now - back then it was just confusion and blushing - the pain associated with blushing and looking like a failure, a loser, and all those bad words.
About eye contact - I haven't experienced the same eye-contact issues that people often worry about in the social anxiety community. The problem I had with my eyes was that because I was always nervous, of course I never wanted to get the focus on me, so I wouldn't look at people. I wouldn't invite the opportunity of any sort of interaction. Also, there was a lot of tension in my body and head, I think because of the way we always hold ourselves very tightly, defensive postures. My eyes were always very tired and dry because of this so looking at people was not exactly fun or easy, but it was not something that I focused on as much as other things. So perhaps it was a problem, not just one that consumed my thoughts.
And recently, off topic, my eye has been twitching! I think it's kind of funny. I don't mind looking at people at all, and my eye has been twitching. And I'm not even sure if people can see it... because I know these small twitches might be something that the person feels but not other people. And actually in the past few years, just with age, my vision is getting a bit worse - I can't read from a close distance. I can see just fine from afar, but nothing close, which I only noticed beginning a few years ago. So, I'm old now!
I say this to just show an example that now I don't care about these physical things... This particular physical thing I'm experiencing now, 1. I'm not worried about it from an anxiety standpoint, and 2. I see this thing just as a real thing happening, even physical, but since I'm not worried about it from an anxious point of view - well, you can even have the same symptoms or feelings of a "thing" without the worry. (Actually about my eyes now, I've looked up that such symptoms as I'm feeling now could just be from eye fatigue - reading a lot of small screens - and that's exactly what I've been doing lately through my work... so it makes sense... and I'm silly by not getting a glasses prescription, which I should do soon... but that's another story!)
Sorry for all that nonsense. Let's answer you questions.
You ask if this is an ANT and do you refer to "blushing" being an ANT or your thoughts about failing eye contact being an ANT? Me - I think the blushing is the symptom, the result of ANTs, and your thoughts about failing something, anything - yes that's an ANT. Be rational, be nice to yourself. When we say "fail", we set up this expectation that you are doing something wrong. In a way you are fighting yourself still, and yes... I know that feeling. Even after doing the therapy a long time, the tendency to resist or fight or get angry about continued anxiety is still there. The ability to not resist, to accept, to be mindful, is more subtle. But practice this. And how? Same strategies.
Say rational things to yourself out loud. Remind yourself that there is no need to judge a failure. Remind yourself that everyone has good and "bad" days. That's fine, that's okay. You're human. Do you expect to never have a bad day again? That's not human. And we are learning to overcome social anxiety - many years before spent in anxiety, and now we are changing, but to expect no days without anxious feelings ever again - well that's setting up something that is too crazy to achieve.
Stop the thoughts and words about failure. That's an ANT. Stop the thoughts after you did have a "bad" day. That's an ANT. Yes, other people may notice our symptoms. To assume what they are thinking is an ANT. Even if they are uncomfortable with the situation, our worry about that is an ANT. First, I am not sure they are uncomfortable. Second, okay, some interactions are uncomfortable. That's normal. Being uncomfortable does NOT equal passing negative judgement on someone. And furthermore, we are not focused on passing irrational judgement on anyone. We should not be concerned with that. We are concerned with out thoughts about ourselves rationally.
Shoul you ignore ANTs while you are talking to people? Well, yes, but that is not always easy to do, so how do you do that? You prepare for situations by doing the therapy consistently and persistently. You prepare for anything before you are in that situation. So, keep doing the therapy so that when you are in that situation, your mind will be stronger with the rational thoughts and you will be more likely to be able to touch those feelings because you believe them.
Feeling shy is a normal feeling. I'm not shy, either, like you, despite a full life and many years being called shy. I know I'm not a super outgoing person, but I'm not shy. Social anxiety is not about being shy. In fact it is about not being able to be yourself because this fear covers anything possible except the one path towards anxiety and panic. When you sing, you are allowed to sing! What harm is that doing to anyone? You have a right to sing while driving right? You also have a right to feel strange, to feel shy... when you have the right and when things are natural, we don't place some bad definition on the thing. In a way this is working towards not resisting, which is in the same area as mindfulness.
I would recommend that you do this, if you are not already:
1. Continue doing the cognitive therapy every day, as you can
2. Practice the therapy not only in your daily study time, but practice it by applying it to real life situations and real life moments when your thoughts become ANTs.
3. Focus on the attitude statments. These pack a lot of emotion.
4. When you are reviewing this session, think about "What you resist persists." So try to be aware of fighting and try not to fight or get angry.
5. Try to focus on self-acceptance through rational statements. Perhaps you start very neutrally here, but continue this so that you can move this to greater self-acceptance though a firm belief that you have the right to accept yourself as you are right now, and you start having this true feeling of self-acceptance.
Have a great day!