Sure, you can make a strong argument that 2016 was the worst year in history. But there’s at least one bright spot: This was the year body positivity finally went mainstream. Plus-size models Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence became household names, Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup (and persuaded others to follow suit), and brands that stopped Photoshopping models in their ads increased sales.

But the real stars of the body positivity movement aren’t the celebrities or brands. They're the everyday badasses who shared how tough (but important) it is to love your body. Check out the top nine moments that inspired us over the past year:

Photo: Lesley Miller

After years of struggling with her weight (starting at age 3 when classmates called her big), Leslie Miller bought her first bikini, struck a pose, and posted an empowering message on Facebook. The stunning photo went viral, and her wise words inspired people to fall in love with the bodies they have right now:

"I want to learn to love all of myself, not just the parts I've been told are 'acceptable.' Because the secret is, I was always enough. And you are too."

Read the full story here.

rose nickels
Photo: Jenna Vecchio

Jenna Vecchio was minding her own business and getting her sweat on at her gym in Ottawa, Canada, when a supervisor told her that her (totally normal) tank top was "offensive to both the staff and other members." Vecchio posted a mic-drop response on Facebook, calling out the gym for body shaming her due to her chest size:

"Different figures means different rules? I would like to bring this out to the public! If tank tops are not allowed at the gym for me because of my chest size, then all women should not be allowed to wear tank tops regardless of size."

Read the full story here.

new mom bikini photo
Photo: Lexi Sinclair

Giving birth is pretty freakin' amazing, but that doesn't stop people  from giving new moms a lot of flack. When Lexi Sinclair went swimming with her 4-month-old son, a woman at the pool told Sinclair that people would be more comfortable if she wore a one-piece swimsuit. Instead of yelling at the woman for the absurdity of her comment, Sinclair had an empowering, classy response that left the internet cheering: 

 "I'm proud of my body... I've grown a human and given birth to a beautiful miracle... My stretch marks and tummy pudge might not be sexy. But they're proof that I've done something amazing, and I have a man that loves me and finds me even sexier and more beautiful now."

Read the full story here.

mason
Photo: Anastasia Kuba

It's easy to oversimplify body positivity as learning to love your body (we're guilty of it). But as photographer Anastasia Kuba points out in her series Nothing but Light, the movement is about a lot more than just liking what you see in the mirror. She shot nude, makeup-free models, and interviewed them about their relationship to their body. Mason, the model pictured above, shared these intimate details:

"I have such an intricate relationship with my shell I don't even know where to begin. We have survived drug exposure in utero, six orthopedic surgeries, non-consensual sexual reassignment, 'gender confirmation' surgeries, sexual assault, two eating disorders, and permanently disabling injuries sustained due to racial profiling."

Read the full story here.

It's easy to notice the progress Kassidy Linde has made over the last 18 months. But the before-and-after photos don't show the body dysmorphia she struggles with every day. In a candid Instagram post, Linde shared how losing weight made her obsessed with stepping on the scale—and what she's doing to stop her weight from dictating her happiness:

"I have a SICK OBSESSION with weighing myself. I weigh myself probably 3 times per day. I have terrible body dysmorphia, and whatever I see on the scale is what I see in the mirror."

Read the full story here.

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Photo: Samantha Geballe

Samantha Geballe became "two adults smaller" after gastric bypass surgery, but she carried the same emotional baggage as before. In an effort to understand and accept her new body, Geballe shot a series of powerful nude self-portraits, which hit home for anyone who has struggled to love, change, or accept their body: 

"It became a way of being kind to myself. I continue to photograph myself now because I need to see... I want to understand and accept myself."

See the full photo series here.

The person you see reflecting in the mirror...will provide you with the biggest challenges in life. The human spirit is powerful. Do the work. Suffer the setbacks, push past the pain and excuses. True motivation is not an outside source. It's staring directly back at you. There is nothing you cannot be, do or have. Live with no regrets and don't ever give up. This is what drives me. My motivation. 💖 #transformationtuesday #teamjonnystraws #neverfail #IAMMOTIV8 #motiv8performance #jonnystraws #weightlossmotivation #weightlossjourney #weightlosstransformation #fitspiration #girlswholift #fitspo #fitfam #selflove #motivation #confidence #weightloss #trainandtransform #girlswithmuscle #fitmom #fattofit #bodybuilding #beastmode #teamgetyokd #spartanrevolution #limitless #ichoosetolive #keepgoing #musclevizion #athlete

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After her husband committed suicide, Justine McCabe began binge eating. At 313 pounds, she decided it was time to make a major change. She started working out, eating clean, and even partnered with an online coach to keep her accountable. Over the course of a year, she lost nearly 200 pounds. Even more motivating than her crazy transformation? McCabe took a year's worth of selfies documenting her incredible mental, physical, and emotional journey:

"The selfies were a massive encouragement for me. Whenever I didn't want to go to the gym, I'd skim through them and realize why I was doing it all." 

Read the full story here.

before and after photo
Photo: Laura Mazza

Before-and-after photos can be an awesome way to show progress, but they can give us unrealistic expectations too. Laura Mazza, the woman behind the blog Mum on the Run, turned the classic transformation shot on its head by posting side-by-side photos where she's heavier—and much healthier—in the after pic: 

"You know what? I have achieved more with this body [on the right], than I have with my old body. I've eaten more good foods. I've lived more, I've given more, I've enjoyed more. I've made life. This body, THIS body should be celebrated and admired."

Read the full story here.

Photo: Ashlie Molstad

As Ashlie Molstad (a.k.a. Foodie Girl Fitness) reminded us in this powerful Facebook post, stomach rolls are perfectly normal. They happen to almost everyone (even fitness gurus) when they sit down: 

"Our bodies aren't broken. The message society is trying to tell us [by airbrushing everything, and erasing dimples, rolls, and fluff] is."

Read the full story here.

READ THIS NEXT: Why Body Positivity Isn’t the Answer to Body Shaming