Expanding your self-concept means embracing different interests and parts of your personality that have nothing to do with the military. The idea here is to counter what could be called concentration risk.
When so much of a person’s identity is wrapped up in one or very few parts of their lives and those things are removed, their very identity can be severely threatened. Consider this analogy. Imagine that you are a stay-at-home mother and wife whose entire family is unexpectedly killed in an accident. Aside from the obvious trauma of losing loved ones, can you imagine how difficult it would be to find purpose day-to-day?
Depressing as it may sound, veterans often face exactly the same sort of trauma, and in the same magnitude, when they separate. After a career in which nearly every facet of life was directed, shaped, or influenced by their employer, suddenly losing that force is threatening and traumatizing. Even if it is the best possible thing for a person, the loss of all of that structure is difficult to endure without finding ways to grow past it.
The best way to combat concentration risk is to diversify. You can expand your self-concept and diversify your identity by actively developing other interests, relationships, and goals.
Interests can include hobbies, art, sports, books, or even volunteering. The world is a wide and beautiful place with no limit of interesting things to pursue. New interests help you to develop parts of your personality unique to you, and along new vectors that you may not have had time for before.
Relationships should include people to mentor or to be mentored by, new friends who have nothing to do with the military, professional peers to work closely with on new projects. Ultimately, our relationships with others can help expand ourselves and help us to grow in new and fulfilling ways.
Goals can be related to extracurricular interests or professional concerns. These give us specific benchmarks to work towards, helping us to give shape to our efforts. Continually meeting goals and developing new ones fill the voids that leaving the military produces.
Doing these three things can help any veteran to understand better their role in the world following separation from service. They may also help veterans to find new purpose and meaning to their lives and keep them moving forward.