Empower

Run Your World: Anna Wassman

In February 2018, I self-published my first book, Run My World: How I Empowered Myself Through Fitness. It would not have been possible without the support of incredible friends, mentors, and role models, and now I’m highlighting some of the amazing people in my life that run their worlds.

Empowered (wo)men empower (wo)men, so now I’m raising a glass to some of the best people I know. I’m so grateful to share their stories — I promise you’ll be even more inspired to run your world!

Mary’s note: Elisabeth suggested I meet Anna, and we instantly bonded as soul sisters. She’s always been a sounding board for me as we both navigate the corporate world from our startup backgrounds. We both love fitness, fashion, festivals, and traveling, so there is literally never an end to our conversations!

On the day of my book launch party, Anna noticed a lump. That week, she went to a doctor and was diagnosed with breast cancer. My heart broke for her, but only temporarily. If anyone could overcome a challenge like this, it would be her — and she would do it with incredible style and a smile. Anna constantly reminds me to live every day to its fullest, and to always live my best life. Because why wouldn’t you if you’re running your world?

Name

Anna Wassman

Hometown

Seal Beach, CA

Current City

Chicago, IL

Occupation/Business

Marketing at Bosch

In one sentence, what does it mean for you to run your world?

I run my world by facing my fears every day with an open mind and overcome them with a positive attitude.

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Acknowledge Your Past: What’s one lesson from your past that has really influenced your life?

Learning to let go. I have always wanted to and have tried to control everything. Over the years I have learned that we can’t hold on to it all. I have found that trying to control everything leads me to be frustrated and even feeling anxious because I can’t let go. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2018, I really re-learned that there are so many things out of my control. While this can be overwhelming and scary, it has helped me realize that we can still make the best out of whatever life throws at us and to just go with the flow.

This is not to say that I haven’t still tried to control my whole treatment plan, but I have learned that while I can control some scheduling of my various doctor’s appointments, I cannot control if I sit in the waiting room for an hour just to see one doctor. After realizing that things are still just going to happen I have become much calmer and able to deal with changes better because I am open to them. The past 5 months has really helped me live in the moment and learn how to make the best of a bad situation by letting go of what I cannot control.

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Find Your Fit: What are your favorite ways to move and exercise? How did you find your fit?

I love yoga and for a more intense workout yoga flow, I love sculpt yoga at CorePower. Having a background in ballet, I have always loved moving and stretching. When I found yoga, I was a sophomore in high school. I have to say back then I wasn’t hooked right away. It took some time and I tried a lot of different types of yoga before I found what worked best for me. Now I find that I am a big believer in giving your body what it needs in that workout. But overall yoga feels like a great mix of mind, body and spirit that allows me to move and flow while giving my mind a break.

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Fuel Your Body: What is your favorite meal to fuel your body? What is your favorite meal to fuel your soul? Have you had any struggles with your relationship with food? How do you try to fight/challenge the cultural standards around dieting and disordered eating?

For my pure fuel and balanced meal, I definitely go to grilled chicken, brown rice and broccoli. I have been eating this since I was a kid and it is still my go-to favorite for a healthy meal. For my soul, I am such a sucker for a good mac and cheese (and to make it a little healthier, I love adding edamame).

My relationship with food has been challenging. When I was in my former career as a ballerina, I struggled to balance eating healthy and maintaining a slender weight for the career. There were times where I would binge eat everything and then “fast” or well starve myself for a few days just to be the right weight. It also didn’t help that the teacher for a while that made me weigh myself in front of him every week.

After my ballet career ended, it was really hard for me to be a “normal” weight. My whole life I was always crazy skinny, but when you aren’t dancing 8+ hours a day, your body quickly puts on weight. And that is completely normal. Over the years I tried crazy diets, vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, protein shakes, etc. but I found that a lot of it really just made me limit what I ate and then made me more likely to binge eat once I was done or had a cheat day that turned into a failed diet.

It wasn’t until my second year in college that I took a nutrition class and it really helped me learn how to eat a balanced diet and allow for moderation instead of binge eating. Now I eat a healthy diet mixed with veggies, fruit, lean meats, carbs (yes both healthy and “not healthy”) but really just to make sure that my body is getting the best nutrients it needs.

Lately, it has been challenging to eat a balanced diet since I am going through Chemotherapy. But I have learned that as long as I am still giving my body the healthy vegetables, fruits, and whole foods, I tend to do okay. During this time I have also been struggling with my weight fluctuating over 7 pounds up and down each week. I know it is because it is undergoing a lot of stress and trauma from the treatment, but some days it can be extremely hard to be kind to myself. Self-love and acceptance of my body are so important right now, and I constantly keep reminding myself that it is not the weight on the scale that makes me healthy, but if I am actually feeling well. It really makes me value the days that I can eat that balanced diet and feel great even if I am a little heavier on those days.

Practice Mindfulness: Do you meditate? If so, how? How do you try to be mindful on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

YES!!!! Headspace has been my go-to everyday meditation guide. They have so many options depending on your mood and or how you want to feel or what you would like to work on in your meditation practice. Ever since I received the news that I have breast cancer, I have been using meditation as a positive coping mechanism to help me reflect and be in the moment with what I am feeling. Some days are easier than others and sometimes my mind just will not sit still. I have learned from this that I have to be kind to myself and allow my mind to wander from time to time. I think meditation is so important for everyone to try because it really just gives your anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes or longer to reflect and just be present in the moment.

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HIIT vs. LISS: Tell us about your work-life “balance.” How do you manage planning/productivity while being a straight up hustler?

For a while, I was terrible about work-life balance. And to be honest, I am still working on it. I went back to school a little later in life after my career as a professional ballerina ended, so for me, I was always trying to do it all (meaning both working and school at the same time). I had always held some type of job while I was in school but I remember when I got my first “full time” internship and decided to work at that over 40 hours a week and attending school it was crazy, to say the least. I know a lot of people do this, but I definitely did not know how to balance my time properly.

Over time, I have learned to give myself that time to myself. Whether that means going to yoga right after work or even waking up at 5 am to make sure I get that workout in, I have learned that when I do I always feel so much better. I also learned that sometimes it’s better to skip that happy hour and get that workout in to help my mood in life and at work. This is really is something that takes practice and I have learned that mindfulness really helps me. I still plan out and pack my days with as much as I can so I can keep hustling, but if there are days where I need that extra sleep or maybe a nap, I make sure I listen to my body and give it what it needs. Work-life balance is so extremely important to avoid burning out (which I have definitely experienced).

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Get Out of Your Comfort Zone: What have you done in 2018 that is most out of your comfort zone? What is something you really want in 2018 that you’re a little scared to do? Tell us a travel experience that pushed you out of your comfort zone.

Well, not that I wanted this to happen, but my breast cancer diagnosis pushed me way out of my comfort zone. Of course, I think this would happen to anyone in my situation but I have to say it has pushed me to do so many things I wouldn’t normally do and even helped me overcome some of the fears that I have had.

Before my diagnosis, I was terrified of needles. Now, while I still do not like them, I have come to terms with my fear and end up having to face it almost every week. Also, before my diagnosis, I was scared to speak up. At work in meetings, I would think I never had the right thing to say or even in group settings I have realized that I get shy. However, now I have realized that if I have something to say I should just say it. This has really helped me find my voice and realize that there is so much more to life than being scared of what others are going to think of you. Every day I am still working on this, but I think overall my confidence is higher than ever because I have learned to stop worrying about what people will think because I now know that it is how I am feeling that really matters.

This year I have been scared but excited to start my new job in the corporate world. For me, this is a first because I have always been in either the performing arts, theater, or startup world. I am used to everything constantly changing and having very different hours. I wanted to try this now though because I think it is good to experience and learn. I am nervous about being in a company that has over 400,000 people, but I am so excited for this new journey.

As far as travel pushing me out of my comfort zone, my recent trip to Bali comes to mind. I am terrified of reptiles. Every kind of them too. Big and small, I do not discriminate in my fear. So when we arrived at our amazing hotel in the middle of the jungle I was pushed way out of my comfort zone when I realized all these little gecko, frogs, and lizards were just roaming around on the walls and grounds. I swear I was on edge for most of this trip even though we were in the most relaxing place in the world. I don’t know why I couldn’t get over this fear, but I have to say I definitely faced it, even if I did run through the lobby straight to our room every time we got back at night.

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Shine On: What accomplishment makes you most proud? What’s a big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG) that you’ve been contemplating and want to speak into existence?

My biggest accomplishment would be graduating Summa Cum Laude and receiving the Dean’s Key from Loyola University Chicago. After high school, I danced professionally and then held a few random jobs after my ballet career was over, so going back to school later in life was such a big step. I never thought I would actually graduate! Then, during my last semester at Loyola, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I had to take off over 3 weeks of school for surgeries and, not to mention, still being at some type of hospital or doctors office every couple days was like having a full-time job. Looking back now, I cannot even believe the strength it took to keep going. I had the option to take the incomplete and finish my courses when I felt better, but I knew that was not an option for me, I was this close so I just kept going and I did it. Straight A’s and all.

My first BHAG is earning another degree, since apparently, I can’t get enough of school. I’m currently studying for the GMAT (yikes!) with hopes of getting into an Ivy League school for my MBA.

My second BHAG is writing a book. I know, it’s kind of crazy, but Mary has seriously inspired me so much to write about what I have been experiencing along my breast cancer journey. It won’t be just a biography or “How to Beat Cancer While Looking Fabulous” type of book that I know already exists. I want it to be a collaborative book that shares the stories and experiences of the many cancer friends I have made along the way. There have been so many amazing women who have shared their stories with me that I want to eventually give back to anyone else going through cancer. There are some positive coping mechanisms that really helped me and I think would help anyone whether you are going through cancer or not. Stay tuned for more…

Instagram: @annamazingjourney

Her boyfriend, Austin, is running the Chicago Marathon for Gilda’s Club to support breast cancer. You can donate here!

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