Terrence Higgins Trust uses cookies to improve your experience of our websites. For more information or to change the use of cookies, please click here.

Accept and Close

Self confidence and low self-esteem

mental health

We can all suffer from low self-esteem or experience self-confidence problems at times in our lives, but if you’re living with HIV you're more likely to struggle with these.

How can my HIV diagnosis affect my mental health?

If you've experienced low self-esteem, anxiety or depression before your HIV diagnosis - whether this was due to childhood experiences or other problems in your life - receiving your diagnosis may have made your symptoms worse.

Even if you've enjoyed good mental health, an HIV diagnosis can still cause shock and trauma and requires some adjustment.

Worries about your future, health, body image and telling people that you're HIV positive are all common. Feeling ashamed or guilty about your HIV status can stop you from taking an active role, isolating you and preventing you from living a full and enjoyable life.

Stigma and lack of understanding around HIV can be demoralising, and media stories can be both positive and negative. This can lead to a constant reminder that you're now ‘different’ in some way.

What are the long-term consequences of low self-confidence?

When you’re low on self-confidence you can feel trapped and unable to progress with your life. Your energy decreases and your mood is affected.

Perhaps you feel that your life isn’t worth investing in or that you simply don’t have the ability, money or looks to achieve what you think others have managed to do.

Social media can add enormous pressures, especially for younger people, who may also be experiencing cyber bullying.

Self-confidence can also impact upon your relationships with others - you may not feel confident enough to discuss your HIV status with anyone. It's really useful to think carefully about disclosure and decide who will be most supportive and at what time.

Difficult feelings are perfectly normal, but if you can find a way to overcome them and improve your self-esteem, you’ll be happier. 

You’re also likely to be healthier as you take control of your life and what you want out of it.

Our counsellors have compiled a list of tips for how to boost your confidence and self esteem ››

What can I do to become more confident?

If your lack of self-confidence is preventing you from talking about your HIV status with your loved ones, it could be useful to explore ways to better adapt to your situation.

Talking and socialising with your friends and family can be a good way to boost your confidence.

If you're on your own or don’t have close family or friends, seeing a registered counsellor or psychotherapist can really help to make sense of what has happened in your past and to make some decisions about the present.

Taking some time to look at all of the things you’ve achieved and the problems you have overcome is a good starting point to give yourself a lift.

You could also try making contact with support groups for HIV positive people. These can be a good place to talk in safe surroundings with like-minded people. Workshops that aim to give you skills to boost your confidence and self-esteem could also be useful. 

More help with self-esteem:

How to deal with low self-esteem ››



Whole Star Whole Star Whole Star Whole Star Whole Star (3 votes cast) Please log in or register to vote. What's this?


Please log in or register to add this article to My favourites. What's this? Adding an article to My favourites will allow you to easily come back to it later or print it.

Your comments

You will need to be logged in before you can leave a comment.

Please log in using the form on the top right of the page or register.

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 2/12/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 2/12/2018

Content Author: Anthony Clarke

Current Owner: Counselling

More information:

Bénabou, R. & Tirole J. (2002) Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 117(3) 871-915

Brown, J.S.L., Elliott, S.A., Boardman, J., Ferns, J. & Morrison J. (2004) Meeting the unmet needs for depression services with psycho-educational self-confidence workshops: preliminary report. British Journal of Psychiatry 185:511-515

Providing Emotional Support, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (2007)

Lévy, A., Laska, F., Abelhauser, A., Delfraissy, J., Goujard, C., Boué, F. & Dormont, J. (1999) Disclosure of HIV Seropositivity. Journal of Clinical Psychology 55(9):1041-1049

Top four needs of people with HIV in the UK all related to mental health, NAM aidsmap (2009)

Self-Esteem and Hope, The Body (1996)

Rosenberg, M., Schooler, C., Schoenbach, C. & Rosenberg, F. (1995) Global Self-Esteem and Specific Self-Esteem: Different Concepts, Different Outcomes American Sociological Review 60(1):141-156

Weatherburn, P. et al. (2009) What do you need? 2007 – 2008: findings from a national survey of people diagnosed with HIV. London: Sigma Research