An idealized "test" object in general relativity moves along a geodesic. However, if the object has a finite mass, this will create additional curvature in the spacetime, causing it to deviate from geodesic motion. If the mass is nonetheless sufficiently small, such an effect is usually treated perturbatively and is known as the gravitational self-force due to the object. This issue is still an open problem in gravitational physics today, motivated not only by basic foundational interest, but also by the need for its direct application in gravitational-wave astronomy. In particular, the observation of extreme-mass-ratio inspirals by the future space-based detector LISA will rely crucially on an accurate modeling of the self-force driving the orbital evolution and gravitational wave emission of such systems. In this paper, we present a novel derivation, based on conservation laws, of the basic equations of motion for this problem. They are formulated with the use of a quasilocal (rather than matter) stress-energy-momentum tensor---in particular, the Brown-York tensor---so as to capture gravitational effects in the momentum flux of the object, including the self-force. Our formulation and resulting equations of motion are independent of the choice of the perturbative gauge. We show that, in addition to the usual gravitational self-force term, they also lead to an additional "self-pressure" force not found in previous analyses, and also that our results correctly recover known formulas under appropriate conditions. Our approach thus offers a fresh geometrical picture from which to understand the self-force fundamentally, and potentially useful new avenues for computing it practically.