Audiences across the country chuckled at the simple but profound words repeated by a young child in a recent, popular film – “you is kind, you is smart, and you is important.” Although a bit immature in its simplistic presentation, these words represent a powerful life lesson. All people should have the privilege of knowing that they are equally valuable, unique and just as deserving of love as any other human being; individual differences – age, class, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and even HIV status, do not diminish one’s self-worth.



Self-worth is a commodity for some, but an asset to all; it must be nurtured and protected through consistent and intentional practice. Because the value an individual assigns to him/herself has the power to influence critical life choices, it is an important tool for self-preservation. Self-value sits at the helm of life’s journey, navigating individuals through inevitable challenges, one decision at a time.

It’s easy to see how living without the emotional vitamins gained by a generous helping of self-worth can eventually result in deficiency. By owning positive self-worth, an individual teaches others what he or she will accept, sketching out a blueprint for the direction of their lives. Self-value also helps to guide a person away from dangerous pitfalls, such as following people, relationships, behaviors or ideas that end in free fall.


During childhood, the process of assessing personal value begins during daily experiences within social systems – school, church and family. While affirmation from these systems are the primary way in which one’s sense of self-worth is developed, this is a luxury many people are never afforded. Early messages that should be positive and nurturing are often tarnished with the reinforcement of negativity and shame. When this happens, self-worth is replaced with a well-built monument of insecurity, fear, self-loathing and self-abuse.



Learning of one’s HIV positive status can be devastating. The ability to effectively cope with HIV is determined by the presence of positive self-worth. For those who already suffer from a lack of self-value, a positive HIV result can feel like the indefinite expiration of hope. Moments like these present an opportunity for individuals to lay claim to the sense of self-worth that has always belonged to them – even in scenarios where it has not been fostered or endorsed by others.



No problem is ever resolved until it has first been recognized. Risky sexual practices which may lead to HIV infection can be the result of self-worth deficiency. There are steps that can be taken to reclaim personal value when shortcomings in individual affirmation exist in school, church and family.



Jon Diggs, a Morehouse graduate, prevention specialist and licensed associate professional counselor with the state of Georgia, has worked with clients suffering from depression and anxiety. In recent years, Jon has worked extensively with those affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS. As an expert in his field, he sat down with me to have a candid conversation about self worth. During the interview, Diggs also outlines some of the steps in the process of recovering one’s sense of self-worth.





STEP 1: Speak Your Truth

Expose hidden truths to create room for new possibilities and growth. The truth can provide a sense of personal freedom and acts as a catalyst for change.

Embrace accountability by getting out of the habit of shifting blame. See yourself accepting responsibility for your own actions.

Remember that change is a process and try to be patient with yourself. Identify a team that will support your process of change.

STEP 2: Tell a New Story

Believe in the new possibilities of self by imaging a different future. Understand that the past is a reference, not a guide.

Imprint your story by speaking it aloud as well as internally.

STEP 3: Set Intention

Continue to set new, personal objectives for yourself. Understand that you have purpose and be consistent about seeing your goals through.



Individuals who maintain good mental and emotional health and stability, have better coping mechanisms to deal with the ongoing physical effects of a chronic disease.

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Click here to learn more about HIV statistics in the United States.

The Center for Black Equity, formally known as the International Federation of Black Prides, is an American institution with a global reach strongly committed to supporting leaders, institutions, issues and programs that lead to social, economic, and cultural equity for all LGBT people of African descent.

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