I think the main difference between “loving” and “people-pleasing” is what might happen if I don’t.
Not loving feels like missing an opportunity to lighten someone’s heart – to make it feel more bright and buoyant. It’s a choice where all options feel safe.
Not pleasing feels like putting myself in danger of someone’s anger, resentment, or hurt. It’s a fawn response, as much for self-protection as fight or flight.
There’s nothing wrong with self-protection, but I prefer feeling safe enough to show love.