Learn English Vocabulary in Conversation: Confidence

Read and listen to Jane’s story of confidence vs. insecurity. Try to guess what the bolded vocabulary words mean from the context – then read the vocabulary section at the end of the story to find the answers.

For many people the month of June means one thing – summer is coming! For me, however, ever since I started high school it has meant only stress, anxiety, and self-doubt… all because it’s exam time.

I’m one of those people who goes into an exam terrified, anxious and full of “what if…” scenarios… and I always come out of an exam 100% certain that I’ve completely and utterly failed. It’s never mattered that I have a track record of success or that my friends have constantly offered words of encouragement, there is something about exams that makes my insecurities flourish.

But this past year, I learned to see things in a different light.

I had stayed at school in the library to study, along with a boy from the year below. His name was Tom and he was incredibly shy. He looked mortified when I asked him if I could borrow his red pen to carry on my meticulous underlining.

“What’s the matter Tom? Cat got your tongue?” I said.

“I…I’m sorry.” Tom finally managed to reply, blushing.

“Or are you just shy?” I said, with a smile.

“Um, yeah, I guess… a little bit… with people I don’t know… especially girls,” he mumbled in a voice so quiet I could barely hear him.

“Well, I’m Jane. I don’t bite.” I shook his hand firmly. He was shocked at my boldness, but seemed to loosen up.

“What are you studying?” I asked, hoping to break the ice a bit more.

“Uh… geometry. It’s, you know, pretty easy – but I want to get a perfect score.” He spoke hesitantly, but his face radiated certainty.

I was surprised at this sudden display of confidence from such a shy guy. I dreaded math, even though I had always done quite well – for me, my past success meant that a disaster just had to be around the corner.

“How can you be so confident; what if you fail?!” I blurted, almost angrily.

“Well, why would I fail if I’m studying hard and I’m good at it? Maybe I could help you out…I mean…if you’d like?”

Over the next hour, Tom and I went over some practice questions and I managed to get them all right.

“I… I don’t think you need my help, Jane. You nailed these practice questions.”

“No way, the only reason I got the answers right is because you were showing me what to do. But on the test I’ll be on my own, so I’ll definitely get everything wrong.” I was annoyed by his flattery.

“Jane, I didn’t do anything for you. You solved the problems yourself; I was just… following along,” he said with a shrug.

I looked down at the paper and realized he was right. I had written all the answers, and with Tom’s company, I had completely forgotten to dwell on my insecurities.

“How is it possible for you to be so shy, yet so confident?!” I exclaimed.

“Well, how can you be so outgoing and so insecure?” Tom retorted.

That was when we realized we could help each other. That day I realized my insecurity was just as irrational as Tom’s shyness – and we became great friends.

Vocabulary Words

track record (n.) = a history of performance or accomplishment

flourish (v.) = grow strong

in a different light = in a different way; from a different perspective

mortified (adj.) = extremely embarrassed

meticulous (adj.) = very careful and precise

Cat got your tongue? = an informal expression used to tease someone who is not saying anything

blushing (v.) = when your face turns red from embarrassment or self-consciousness

mumbled (v.) = speak softly while moving your mouth very little

loosen up (v.) = become less tense or less formal; become more relaxed and friendly

hesitantly (adv.) = with hesitation

radiated (v.) = showed clearly and strongly, like the sun shining its light

dreaded (v.) = feeling great fear, terror, hate about something unpleasant

blurted (v.) = said quickly without thinking

nailed (v.) = Slang – performed successfully

flattery (n.) = excessive and insincere praise

shrug (n./v.) = the action of lifting and then lowering your shoulders

dwell on (v.) = think deeply and excessively about

outgoing (adj.) = extroverted, someone who loves to interact with other people

retorted (v.) = replied quickly and with humor or sarcasm

irrational (adj.) = having no good reason or logic

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