I grasp the meaning completely, I'm just looking for alternatives ways to express it.
More colloquially, someone might say: "I can't get my head around it"
Consider the following possibilities. (Not all of them express exactly the concept you are after, but all of them incorporate aspects of it):
Rationalization / rationalizing behaviour
Living a lie
Being closeted (e.g. as a homosexual, follower of a different faith (or none), member of a different ethnicity)
Denial behaviours, e.g. denial of responsibility, self-denial
I think you could use the term ambivalence or its adjective form ambivalent.
Ambivalence is defined as:
Simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action
And that is pretty much the same definition as cognitive dissonance.
Psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously
In fact, there are a number of online articles — such as this one entitled "Thinking and Caring About Cognitive Inconsistency: When and for Whom Does Attitudinal Ambivalence Feel Uncomfortable" — that use the word ambivalence when describing cognitive dissonance.
The term Dunning-Kruger effect is well known enough to have meaning amongst generally educated people.
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias which can manifest in one of two ways:
- Unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.
- Those persons to whom a skill or set of skills come easily may find themselves with weak self-confidence, as they may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.
She was suffering from Dunning-Kruger effect, her cookies were not the morsels of heaven she believed they were, they were palatable, at best.