How Duolingo has significantly helped me with “persistent guilt”

Hello all!

Psychology and language learning has always been a great interest of mine ever since I got into language learning in general. One of the things I often say about Duolingo is that it is very therapeutic for me. When things go wrong in my life, I jump onto this site and try to do as many lessons as I can. My focus is not on the current circumstance, but on something that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. Therefore, Duolingo plays a huge role in my life, even if it’s not necessarily language-focused.

Recently, I have seriously come to terms with a specific problem that I have struggled with ever since I was a small child. It’s guilt. Not the healthy kind where it’s a signal that you have not met up with societal standards and must correct yourself. The type of guilt I have struggled with is “persistent guilt.” Understand that this is not “chronic.” To further explain, I am not saying I have an illness or a disorder. It’s an issue that I DO have control over, but the control is not easy to grasp. Also understand that “persistent guilt” is not an official, diagnosable term; it’s merely the way I describe the guilt I experience throughout life.

Persistent guilt, in a general sense, is marked by the inability to forgive oneself. It causes one to feel like they ought to punish themselves for the wrongs they have committed, even if they have made amends. This can stem from healthy guilt, where you have actually committed a wrong act that needs to be fixed so that you don’t make that mistake again in the future. However, instead of learning and moving on, you continue to beat yourself up for an action that can never be reversed. Basically, you can’t move on. In my perspective, self-punishment gives the victim some type of ability to control the themselves, but that control is false. Sadly, this can lead to asocial behavior. Or, it can stem from irrational guilt, where the act one committed does not harm anyone, but in the victim’s eyes they have done something erroneous.

Persistent guilt can also diminish one’s self worth. This guilt has made it difficult for me to connect with other people in real life because of my constant feelings of inferiority, all because of things I consider flaws in my past. It’s somewhat debilitating, and it also makes me feel like anything I do in life, whether that be extreme achievements like my goal of become a neurosurgeon, or just finishing a good book, is absolutely pointless.

What does this have to do with language-learning or Duolingo? Well, as I have stated before, Duolingo offers me the ability to only focus on learning new things and getting XP. Although, that’s not the whole story. With Duolingo, I feel accomplished when I am able to complete a lesson without getting anything wrong, or when I reach 1000 XP in a week (which has only happened to me once!). With those feelings come a sense of purpose and achievement. Even though most of the time I live life punishing myself for ridiculous things, I go on Duolingo and accomplish something great. How can I feel terrible about myself when I am making these accomplishments? No one else may think I am doing something great, but for someone who has a very low sense of self-worth, that means so much to me. Plus, it’s cheaper than going to a therapist!

When you feel like you are not worth anything because of your persistent guilt or for any other reasons, try to remember the good things you have done and accomplished in life. I often think about how through Duolingo I can remember many Hiragana characters in Japanese, or how I can write very well in French despite my terrible speaking abilities, or even how I understand the basics of Romanian now. Those may be small feats, but those small feats can amount to a huge pile of victories to be proud of. That’s just my word of advice.

Thank you all and happy learning!

June 25, 2018


Yes! Duolingo is not only practical and useful but helpful! Your story is very interesting and i am inspired by you

June 26, 2018

Aw, I'm glad I could inspire you!

June 26, 2018

I think a lot of people can relate to this, myself included. I've spent YEARS feeling guilty over silly things that were probably long forgotten by others. I've only been able to let them go recently. I wonder if part of that is related to my focus on language learning. So happy this is helping you. Best of luck to you in your learning!

June 26, 2018

What a lovely post. I have dyscalculia (like dyslexia, but with math) and often generally struggled to stay focused in a noisy classroom. I felt stupid, lazy and useless for many years. Duolingo has definitely helped my confidence. It always does distract me when I'm feeling down, too. I might never learn Algebra, but I can learn the basics of any language on Duo if I set my mind to it.

June 28, 2018

MasterZsword, you always write so thoughtfully and eloquently! Thanks for sharing your personal experience! It is a great reminder that sometimes it is the small daily feats that count.

June 26, 2018

Fantastic contribution, Reena! Thank you for sharing your story!

June 26, 2018

Look at all those upvotes! The most I ever got was 10... and to be fair, 9 of those were probably for the Mark Twain quote I included. It's clear people (me included) love your contributions.
Have a great day!

June 26, 2018

Thank you for an excellent post. You have put into words several things that I have experienced but not articulated. And happy learning to you, too!

June 26, 2018
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