Happy New Year! It is that time of year again when the gyms are full, diet companies are in the black, and many people in the world resolve to spend less money, eat better, or involve more time in self-care. It is that time in our lives when we think of the model, “New Year, New Me!”

Self-improvement is always important but when I think of the word “new,” I think of a complete restart. But while we all have areas of improvement, there are definitely unique gifts God has bestowed on us that we are not meant to lose to “make new.” It made me think about the being a “new me.” I’m not sure God wants me to be new, but rather, He wants me to be whom He created. To be that, I need to be the best version of myself. 

Society tells us that every year we need to find a way to lose weight, eat healthier, pick a new hairstyle, or wear the latest trend. Physical improvement is not a bad thing. We are supposed to take care of the body that God gave us. We only get one. These are not the only ways we can improve, however, and they definitely are not the most important. 

Every day God is calling us to be our best selves. He calls us to be the version that He created. Being the best version of ourselves means taking care of ourselves. Author Iyanla Vanzant once wrote, “How you treat yourself is how you treat God, because you are a representative of God in your life. So when you are putting yourself last, you are putting God last.” Yes, we are called to care for and serve others, but we have to make sure we are taking care of ourselves as well. They say you cannot give what you do not have and so if we do not have love, we cannot give love. In the same way, in order to share Christ with one another, we need to have Christ in our lives.

The new year gives us a great opportunity not so much to start anew but rather to build on the goodness of the previous years. We are made uniquely and beautifully. We are told in Scripture that we are made in God’s image and likeness and when He saw what He made He said it was “very good.” Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, in his book simply titled “Prayer,” wrote, “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.” Using the gifts He gives us to glorify Him is one of the ways we can thank Him for the blessings in our lives. 

Starting small and recognizing where we most need God in our life is how we start to move towards being our best self. Adding a few more minutes of prayer, complimenting people instead of judging, donating instead of spending, are all little ways we can move towards the person we were created to be. St. Francis de Sales said it best, “Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” May this new year bring an abundance of blessings, a greater love for the Lord, and a recognition that we do not need to be new, just improved. 

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at atarantelli@bishopstang.org.