Everyone’s been talking about Best Nine on Instagram, where you use this site to see how many likes you got in a year, how many times you posted, and your top 9 photos. I was SO excited to type in my username and see the results. I had ideas in my head of what my top nine would be — maybe the time I made it all the way to South Dakota and used a pic to check in and say I was actually alive (you’re welcome, mom and dad). Or maybe when I went to Windy Gap for Work Week and, with my heart so full of love and peace, I captured one of my favorite moments.

I plugged in @swraex, hit that big fancy “GET” button, and sat back.

Wait. What?

That’s IT?

What do you mean that’s my top 9?

I was immediately really, really annoyed and angry. All of these pictures in my top 9, admittedly, are so glamorized and so NOT me. All of the pictures of me holding a baby? Oh yeah, that’s me. All of the pictures of my travels that showcase my love for adventure? Yep! Savannah!

But 9 completely staged, edited, working-hard-for pictures…what does this say about the Instagram community? Furthermore, what does this say about society and what we deem important?

What you don’t see in those 9 pictures? Let’s talk about a few:

What you don’t see? The freezing, FREEZING cold river. My bare feet holding tight to a wet, cold, mossy rock and “Please don’t fall, please don’t fall, please don’t fall” running through my head on repeat, like a broken record. The hours it took to set up the shoot, and all of the hard work of some really amazing people.

What you don’t see? The goosebumps on my legs, my arms, and even my neck and my shoulders from the dropping temperature and the drizzling rain (why do I always take pictures when its cold outside??). The bright red mud on my boots that I still, months later, have not been able to get off. The music blaring in the background, a tool to help me relax since I was 100% out in wide open spaces, with cars and people going by and with my nerves completely shot.

What you don’t see? The 80 or so pictures I took before and after this one to try and get the perfect, “Look everyone, I’m in Hawaii” shot. The HOUR I took to edit the water to make sure it was the bluest of blue, the most tropical, and the most extreme. Let me tell you – my time above the clouds was not anywhere close to the beautiful quality of this picture. An 11 hour flight is absolutely no joke, and what you don’t see is the leg cramps I got from being almost 6′ and sitting in a small, compact seat. Or my rush to take Dramamine for motion sickness, because as the plane was parting clouds up ahead, I could feel every turn and every speed bump in the sky and I didn’t like it one bit. Or the drool on my mouth that I wiped off when I woke up from a hard sleep thanks to that medicine.

And this one? What you don’t see? This was Sunday, February 15th. The photographer looked at the camera after taking this exact picture and said, “Wow, you do sad so well.” Two days before that Sunday and one day before Valentine’s Day my boyfriend told me he needed space, I wasn’t good enough, and he would make sure I understood that we weren’t together “at least for a week” before he went to go sleep with someone else.

She’s blonde and she’s always had a crush on him, I think.

What you don’t see? Those earrings that I’m wearing and the necklace with two hearts around my neck were given to me by that same boyfriend, and I made sure they were displayed for all to see. When I posted on Instagram, you wouldn’t hear that I did sad so well, you wouldn’t hear the crack in his voice when he just needed time to think or even know at all about this trial in our relationship (which lasted for a long time after this). You wouldn’t feel my pillow soaked with tears and my head reeling as I cried on the couch across from my best friend, her holding the roses she got me, hearing me say over and over that I was convinced I couldn’t do all of this on my own.

Do you get it? Don’t you see? What we all share on social media is such a tangled web. The photos of mine that people were drawn to weren’t real or candid. They were staged, with either a team of hair and makeup standing by for me or an editing app on my phone screaming my name.

Lots of people I know have a word of the year. Lots of my blogging friends share these words in blog posts. There’s even a list of 100 if you’re having trouble choosing.

My word? Intentional. My hopes? To live out this year, and forever to come, intentionally. To pursue relationships and continue friendships intentionally: with love, respect, and a listening ear. To share, socially, the good, the bad, and most importantly, the ugly. Not for attention or assurance, but so my top 9 of 2016 aren’t staged moments that don’t show who I really am and what makes my heart soar. Do those photoshoots make me feel good? Yes. Did standing on top of that waterfall make me feel beautiful? HECK yes.

But you guys, there is so, SO much more than what’s on Instagram. There’s so much more behind a filter or a hashtag.

You may be wondering how to live intentionally. I wondered that too. Here are a few ways:

1. Set goals.

As a student taking 6 classes this semester, volunteering at a nearby hospital, and working part time, its easy to get stuck or get caught up in the schedule. Even if you aren’t in the same situation as I am, set goals for yourself. They can be big – like making straight A’s – or simple and small – like allowing 30 minutes every night to read your favorite book. Setting goals helps to keep you on track and keep you living a life with intention.

2. Listen.

Listen to your friends, family, and partner. Hold their hand, make eye contact, and hear their story.

3. Accept.

Accept others as they are and as they come to you. Understand that there are people from all walks of life. Offer up your story to everyone you meet and be intentional in understanding and learning about someone else’s path.

4. Disconnect.

Like me, you can get caught up in the glamour and storytelling side of social media. When you find yourself dedicating a little too much time to editing that Instagram photo, or when you’re styling a picture simply to show off happy, reconsider and step back.

For more ways to live intentionally, check out this great resource I found from Becoming Minimalist.

What about you? What is your word for 2016? How will you live intentionally? I would love to hear from you!

Disclaimer: Talking about the styled shoots up above, please know that I am in no way bashing the modeling industry or anyone I worked with to create the images you see. I had SO much fun shooting with many gifted and talented vendors and I don’t wish to take away from that. I just want everyone to be aware of the behind the scenes!

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  • This is such a gorgeous post! Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Mackenzie |

    • Savannah Ward

      Hey Mackenzie! Thanks so much for commenting! I hope 2016 is going well for you so far, and I had a total fan girl moment when you commented because I absolutely LOVE your writing! Can’t wait to try hot yoga for the first time with your tips!

  • I loved everything about this! Your honesty is so refreshing! You have become one of my favorite bloggers! I hope and pray you get everything you want & more this year!

    • Savannah Ward

      Wow, thank you SO much for your kind words! I really appreciate you reading, this comment made my heart happy! I wish you the best this year and I hope you’re doing well! <3 Much love to you

  • Kristine Circenis

    This is a beautiful post, Savannah. I hope that 2016 brings you nothing but more adventures and happiness <3

    • Savannah Ward

      Thanks so much! I wish the same to you.

  • beautiful beautiful post. It is amazing what we can portray with a simple image and not many people understand the story behind the image.

    • Savannah Ward

      Thanks so much Angela! I hope you’re doing well! Happy New Year!

  • Carolina thelovelylina

    I felt the same way about my top nine! Maybe two of the pictures I was hoping for where in there. I hoped for my family and friends to be showcased, my boyfriend to have at least one picture of us, but it turned out to be mainly selfies, a puppy that isn’t mine, and pictures I wasn’t expecting. It was, however, still a great year!

    • Savannah Ward

      Hey, at least there was a puppy in there haha! Thanks for commenting and Happy New Year!

  • I 100% love this post. I find myself getting disappointed over the same thing. I totally understand that photos taken with an actual camera are more aesthetically pleasing, but it’s usually the not as perfect camera phone photos that show who we really and are truly tell our story.

    I hope 2016 brings you happiness, because you deserve it. You are so beautiful, inside and out.

    XO, SS || Seersucker Sass

    • Savannah Ward

      Thank you so so much. I wish the same to you! I’m so glad I met you through MBN and its so great to see how your blog has transformed and grown. Happy 2016! I can’t wait to see what this year brings for you!

  • I love this post! I felt the same way about my top nine. I hope 2016 is a great year for you!

    Lauren | The Arizona Prepster

    • Savannah Ward

      Hey Lauren! Thanks so much for commenting! I’ve talked to a lot of my friends and they feel the same way about their top 9. I’ve found a lot of comfort while talking to my friends about the impact of social media and I can’t wait to live out this year intentionally. Happy 2016!

  • SO in love with this post! I love how honest you were in this. I hope 2016 is wonderful for you and you are having a great day!


    • Savannah Ward

      Thanks so much, Amy! Happy New Year and happy weekend! <3

  • This is such a beautiful post. It’s always so important to stay true to yourself.

    • Savannah Ward

      Thanks so much Courtney!

  • This was such a vulnerable and beautiful post, Savannah. I applaud you for your willingness to share your struggles and the stories behind these (breathtakingly beautiful) photos. It’s crazy how the photos that people like and comment on the most are the ones that don’t show our authentic selves. I love your goal of living a more intentional life. I can’t wait to see that shown through your posts.

    • Savannah Ward

      Hey Tiffany, thanks so much for your sweet words! Authenticity can be hard to find on social media. I can’t wait to update the blog with how my word of the year works in my life. Happy 2016, beautiful! 🙂

  • Beautiful post girl. I think it is easy to receive validation from the portions of our lives that are “pretty and perfect” and sometimes its so sad when we don’t receive the same praise for the portions of our lives that make us truly what we are. I know I feel disappointed when I share a piece of my life that is real and authentic and raw and for some reason that doesn’t matter to people as much as something “pretend”. I think its okay to have pretty pictures but important to remember everyone has a deeper story.

    • Savannah Ward

      You’re so right, the candid and raw moments are often overlooked and it sucks! Its hard but so important to remember that everyone has a story behind their pictures and social media accounts. I hope your new year is off to a fantastic start!

  • I really enjoyed reading this post. Beautifully written and so true.

    Diary of a Debutante

    • Savannah Ward

      Thanks so much Stephanie! Happy New Year!

  • Kylie Katherine Souder

    Intentional was my word of 2015, I can’t tell you how much it’s changed my life

    • Savannah Ward

      I’m so excited for this year and can’t wait to see how this word works in my life! Happy 2016!

  • This was so beautifully written!! Thank you for being so vulnerable with us! Intention was my word from last year and it really opened my eyes!

    • Savannah Ward

      Thank you so much Raewyn! I’m so glad you liked reading!

  • Linda Plourde

    Wow! I loved reading your words. You are an amazing writer. But more importantly, you are an amazing person! Thank you for sharing your heart and opening yourself up for all to get to know you.

    • Savannah Ward

      Thanks Grandma 🙂 I love you!

  • This is a beautiful post ❤ You’ve inspired me to live my life more intentionally, thank you.

  • Hope

    Beautiful written, and so true… social media is so far from real, but it’s way too easy to look at someone else’s Instagram and see their staged, edited photos and assume that their life is actually as perfect as their social media portrays… and then to feel crappy in comparison. Awesome post 🙂

  • Katie Flint

    I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing, I’ll definitely be bookmarking your blog 🙂 your writing is absolutely gorgeous.